Melbourne mecca will ‘G up Liverpool

Ian Rush smiles as he looks out on the vast expanse of the MCG and says with understatement: ”I don’t think it’ll be hard to persuade the lads to want to come and play on this.”

Rush is in town to promote Liverpool’s historic visit to Australia, where it will play its first game in this country at the famous old stadium against Melbourne Victory in July, and is genuinely impressed by the huge arena.

He has played in many of the great stadia in the world, and, as befits a man with his legendary nose for goal, scored in most of them.

The Welsh international justifies his status as an Anfield legend, having bagged 346 goals in 660 appearances in two stints for the Reds, punctuated by a disappointing season in Turin with Juventus in the late 1980s.

Rush went on to have spells with a number of other clubs in the twilight of his career – most notably Newcastle and Leeds United, where he knew the young Harry Kewell, as well as a three-game cameo with Sydney Olympic in the old National Soccer League.

But it is for his time as Liverpool’s feared No.9 that he will always be remembered.

Rush joined the Merseyside club from lower league Chester City as an 18-year-old for a then record transfer fee for a teenager of £300,000, with Liverpool manager Bob Paisley determined that no other club should get a chance to sign the precocious youngster.

”We had a great side then. Today it’s in a transitional period, but when we played no one really knew [it was transitional] because the players that came in did exactly the same job as those they replaced. Bob Paisley was that good he managed to change the team around three times with no one really noticing,” Rush said.

”It was great but a bit daunting when I first arrived. Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen and Ray Clemence were there and it was daunting, as they were like superstars. For me to go into the dressing room with them – it took me a bit of a time to adapt.

”After six months I realised I was good enough, but the problem then is getting the chance to prove you are. At a club like Liverpool you have to take your chance when it comes along. You don’t get that many chances to even be at the club, so when you do you have to take it.”

He did in a way few others ever have. For seven years Liverpool boasted the remarkable statistic that it didn’t lose a game in which Rush scored. That record was finally broken in the League Cup final of 1987, when Rush scored but Arsenal went on to take the trophy – something he remembers with a rueful grin. ”It was a great record while it lasted, anyway.”

Rush has been through some great times with Liverpool, winning two European Cups (as the Champions League was then known), five League Championships, a similar number of League Cups and three FA Cups.

He also endured the biggest heartbreak the club has ever known, the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, for which justice for the 96 victims has only now been delivered, and the nightmare of the Heysel Stadium when 39 Juventus fans were killed in crowd trouble at the 1985 European Cup Final between the Italian club and the Reds.

”Hillsborough was terrible, Heysel also. We weren’t really sure what was happening at the Heysel. That was probably the only game we played when we weren’t bothered whether we won or lost because we just wanted to see our families. It most probably shouldn’t have been played,” he said.

”At Hillsborough, I was on the bench that day, so much went on,” he says before falling momentarily silent.

”The thing I most remember afterwards is the cup final, which was a massive Merseyside occasion.

”People talk about atmosphere, but for me the 1989 cup final was the best atmosphere that you will ever get.

”It was Liverpool v Everton again, and normally when you walk out you see the crowds in the stands on both sides, the red of Liverpool and the blue of Everton, but all round Wembley it was all red and blue together, so nobody knew which end was theirs. They were all shouting Merseyside and that it was a city united.”

Of the recent inquiry verdicts on the Hillsborough tragedy, he says: ”Justice is the right thing. You don’t take on a city like Liverpool. Even Everton supporters got behind. It was great to see a city get behind them all together and they have slowly and surely got their rewards.”

Rush played with and against some wonderful talents, but when asked to name the standouts, a number of names come rapidly off his tongue.

”Kenny Dalglish was probably the best player I played with … he was fantastic. We had a very good team at that time [Liverpool won the European Cup in 1981 and 1984].

”You look at players like Ronnie Whelan who would most probably walk into Liverpool sides now, but they were seen as average players when we played. But they weren’t. They were special but when you had people like Kenny Dalglish, they were extra special.

”When I was at Juventus I played with Michael Laudrup. He was a great player, too.”

Defenders always knew they were in a game when they had to try to shut out Rush, who nominates two – one Irish, one Italian – as the toughest he faced.

”Paul McGrath for Manchester United. He was an excellent player, very quick. He never said a word on the pitch. And Franco Baresi [AC Milan and Italy legendary centre-back]. He didn’t really have pace, but his reading of the game was so good it didn’t really matter. That’s what makes them so good, players like him, they have a football brain.”

Rush says he looks back happily on the three matches in which he turned out for Sydney Olympic 13 years ago, right at the end of his career.

”I played a couple of games for them with a soccer school in Sydney. I scored the winning goal against Marconi, Brett Emerton scored the other goal,” he said.

”I have fond memories.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美睫培训.