Ian Rush - The greatest goalscorer

It was a great honour for to be granted an interview with the one and only Ian Rush, Liverpool's greatest ever goalscorer. He is a humble guy who deserves his legend status at Liverpool probably more than most.

When did Liverpool first show an interest in you at Chester?

Allan Oakes the manager at Chester told me that Liverpool wanted to sign me. This was in February or March 1980. I refused to go to Liverpool because I didn’t feel I was good enough to play for them. They were such a big club and I didn’t think I was good enough to go. They came again back in April. Paisley invited me to Anfield and Melwood and I went there and I realised it was such a great place. It would be too good of a chance to turn it down. I think it was in April 1980 when I signed for Liverpool.

You were still apprehensive about the move to Liverpool?

Yeah, but I felt if I wasn’t good enough I could always go back to Chester. I thought, 'I might as well go and see what it was like'. After 3-4 months I realised I was good enough to play for them. Even though there were some good players there I wasn´t out of place. I was at the reserves then and most in the reserves were good enough for the first team and I knew I was as good as them so that’s when I realised I could make it at the top given the chance.

Bob Paisley said you were close to leaving Liverpool?

Yeah that’s true. I gave myself two years to get into the Liverpool first team. I played in the last seven games of my first season in the first team because Steve Heighway and David Johnson were injured. I thought I had done very well but the only problem was that I hadn’t scored a goal. The next season I was back in the reserves. Heighway and Johnson were fit. I went to see Bob Paisley and told him I wanted to leave because I felt I deserved a place in the team. Bob Paisley said, 'Yeah, you can leave but the reason why you’re not in the team is you’re not selfish enough. If you had been scoring goals you had been in the team. No matter how well you played you didn’t score goals. You can go on the transfer list.' As I was going out I said 'I’ll show you I can score goals'.

I scored 7-8 goals for the reserves and fortunately for me David Johnson got injured. Bob Paisley gave me a chance. I came on as a sub against Oulu and scored my first goal, scored two against Exeter City in the cup and two against Leeds United. As you say the rest is history, but later when you find out when I spoke to Bob Paisley, he never had the intention to put me on the transfer list. That’s typical how Bob Paisley knew to get the best out of his players. Bob Paisley was very good at his job. If players wanted to sort out matters with Bob Paisley they could be in his office for an hour and the players come out happy. You ask them 'What happened?' 'I don’t know.', they would say. They would come out really happy, but he still hasn’t answered. That goes to show how good he was.

Would you say Bob Paisley was a tough manager?

I wouldn’t say tough but he had more knowledge than anyone I know. Even in training he wasn’t looking, the next moment he would tell you: 'What about that one you missed?', 'What are you doing relaxing?' He knew everything about training and the opposition. You’ve got lot of coaches who tell you, you must do that and must do this, but they don’t understand them. He got over his message to the players like they wanted to.

What do you think of Roy Evans’ time in charge?

Roy Evans was a bit unlucky. He could have stayed there, but he wanted to do what was best for Liverpool football club. Times are changing now and obviously it wasn’t working. Evans had his chance. Well, I wouldn’t say it didn’t work because they figured in Europe every year Roy Evans was there. While he was good for the players, but maybe you could say he was too nice. When you’re a manager you’ve got to be tough. If you would ask Roy Evans now he would say he wasn’t as tough as he should have been. He’s learnt that, but that’s too late. His knowledge of the game and his ideas are very good.

Why weren’t clubs queing up for his services?

Maybe people think he is too nice. I think if he was hired as an assistant manager people are scared because he was a manager at a big club, he’s after their job. Roy Evans isn’t that kind of person. He goes out to help the people at the club as best he can.

What do you think your best season was at Liverpool, the 1983-84 season or?

Goalscoring yes, but overall the season I enjoyed the most was 1985-86 when we won the double. As a individual it was maybe the 1983-84 season when I scored 47 goals but as a team it was when we won the double. To actually play in the first Merseyside cup final, against Everton. To be losing 1-0 at half-time and win 3-1 and score two goals. We had won the double. Everything rolled into one in this game, against the Everton team which was the second best team in Europe then.

Everton was probably your favourite opponent.

Without a doubt. When I played against them I knew I was going to score a goal [Big laugh]. I think I will to come out of retirement now just against Everton.

Many supporters say the FA Cup final 1986 is their favourite game. When you hit the camera in the corner....

The game was superb. We played as a team, Steve McMahon was sub and there were no English players playing for Liverpool then. Scottish, Irish, Australian, Danish, there was no Englishman that actually played in it.

When you decided to leave Liverpool. You never felt any bad sentiments towards you the farewell season?

No because I think supporters respected me. I played in every single game. I scored 32 goals that season. I was on a high for Liverpool. I could have easily sat back, scared of getting injured. That never came into mind, because Liverpool is such a good club. Liverpool had a year to look at people to replace me. It is important when you leave, you leave on good terms and that’s what I actually did at Liverpool.

Were you close to joining Napoli three years before you joined Juventus, after the 1983-84 season?

Yes, I was. The chairman at the time was John Smith and he wouldn’t let me speak to them. They offered Liverpool some very big money and I wanted to speak to them. They asked for permission and John Smith said no. I think if I had spoken to them I would have probably joined them.

Do you keep in touch with your old teammates at Juventus?

"I keep in touch with Pasquale Bruno and Tacconi the odd time. I just came back from Venice. I was there with my family and I spoke to Bruno. It’s probably he and Tacconi I keep most in touch with and Brio a little bit. " 

I can remember you were in the stands at Anfield in the 1987-88 season watching the clash between QPR and Liverpool, the top two teams then and you were just shaking your head.

John Barnes was getting down the wing and putting balls across and Peter Beardsley was there as well. I would have scored more goals. When I was playing at Juventus I was playing defensive forward. The football didn’t suit me and you come back to Liverpool and seeing so many chances being made, that’s where you want to be.

Platini had just left.

Yes, If he had stayed it would have been easier for me. When I met him, he said to me, 'You've come at the wrong time to Juventus. You should have been here 2-3 years ago when we had a better team’. Juventus wouldn’t be successful because it was going through a transition. The reason he left was because the supporters were starting to have a go at him after he had been so fantastic for Juventus. He said , 'Well, I am going to get out, this will be difficult for you'. And I thought to myself, 'If he’s saying this, it’s going to be a hard season'. When I came back to Liverpool I was a better all-round player. I think I grew up in Italy. I knew all about the continental way of playing.

Many supporters thought they had seen the best of Ian Rush before you left for Italy....

From the point of view of scoring goals wise, before I left for Juventus I did score more goals. I had become a much better all-round player because I worked more outside the box. With the illness I had, I was nowhere near fit the first 6-7 months after I had come back to Liverpool. It was only towards the end of that season when the rest of the players were getting tired I reached the same level of fitness as them. I was doing extra training and it was draining me even more and when I got on the pitch I was finding it hard to move.

Houllier has often mentioned you when he’s talking about his strikers having to defend....

As soon as your team is without the ball, you become the first defender. Sammy Lee has been asked who was the best defender Liverpool ever had, 'Hansen, Lawrenson who else?' No, he says, 'Ian Rush'. A lot of strikers have a shot at goal and then they switch off. The good ones get back into position and think now you have to go past me, I am going to be a defender. You have to learn to chase back. That's what I teach people at my school, once they start scoring goals and think it’s easy, I take them to the next level. Let’s see now if you can defend. They go, 'I don’t have to defend.' You have to realise that you’ve got to defend if you’re a striker. You’ve got to make it easier for your midfielders and they try to make it easier for the defenders and they make it easy for the goalkeeper.

Your apparent telepathy with Dalglish on the field?

The good players are those who are quick learners. When I first played with Kenny Dalglish I used to stand there not thinking he could not put the ball into the position I wanted it go, but 2-3 times he’d gone and actually done it.. 'Oh shit', I said, 'I better make my run there if this man could put the ball anywhere'. I was pretty quick. Kenny started to realise I was quick as well. We didn’t speak a lot off the pitch but on the pitch we just had a thing that was natural. I knew what Kenny was good at and Kenny knew what I was good at. That was what made us work so well as a pair. Kenny wouldn’t look up to see where I was, he would just put the ball into space and I just knew Kenny was going to put the ball there. The defenders were just left thinking, 'how does he know the ball was going to get there.' But we did know.

When Kenny resigned. Did it come as a bolt out of the blue for you or did you expect something was on?

I did suspect really that something was wrong the way he had gone down the few months before. But to resign as manager, that did come out as a bolt out of the blue. We were doing well in the league, just done a 4 all draw against Everton. It was a big blow for everyone and it took us until the next season to get over it really. I don’t think anyone will know the real reason except Kenny.

Interview by Arnie and Stonie - Copyright - 

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