Naveed Khan speaks exclusively to Liverpool legend Ian Rush on expectations at Anfield, Andy Carroll, playing abroad, hope for Wales, and much more…
Naveed Khan: Liverpool have made a poor start to this season, what do you think the expectations should be at Anfield this season?
Ian Rush: Like to finish high as possible in the league. The top four would be great if they could do that, but they have to be realistic and aim to finish higher than we did last season, that’s what it is all about. It is not going to be easy, there are a lot of teams vying for that top four and if Liverpool can start winning their home games they can do that.
NK: People are already asking the question that Brendan Rodgers style does not suit Steven Gerrard’s style of play. Do you think will that have a major impact on the team or do you think Steven can learn to mould into this new system?
IR: Good players can play in any system and Steven is a great player so I would not worry too much about that. Steven can play for any team in any system because he is such a great player. Brendan Rodgers has his own philosophy and it will take time for players to adjust to that but great players will do that and I have no worries about Steven doing that.
NK: One of the players who didn’t survive the cut was Andy Carroll. Do you think it was a mistake to let him go?
IR: He is looking at the long term. Andy Carroll can progress. When you see him playing for West Ham, he had a great start because they play to the way Andy Carroll likes. Big Sam [Allardyce] likes to get the ball up and play right up to the front, whereas at Liverpool it’s more of a pass and move game. It will suit both Andy and Liverpool as it’s not good Andy Carroll just sitting on the bench and he needs to be playing and have a good year of playing football.
NK: A lot of modern teams and managers like to play just one man up front, is that a system you would have liked to have played in?
NK: Would you have to modify your game for that?
IR: You have to modify your game. I have played up front alone away from home in Europe for Liverpool and also for Wales. It is a hell of a lot of running and the people who really benefit are the midfielders and it is very difficult for someone up front to be by themselves. Everyone likes to play the number 10 position now in the hole where they get free and they get chances and it is difficult for someone to do that [play up front alone]. It takes a big strong lad, you have to hold the ball up and have to do a lot of running. You don’t mind doing it in certain games but if it’s all season, me, personally, I would not have liked to have done that.
NK: You mentioned about playing away in Europe for Liverpool, but you also played for Juventus. How was the experience of playing abroad?
IR: It was a great experience, a learning curve and I came back a much better player. I didn’t score as many goals when I came back to Liverpool but I came back a better football man and that’s what going to Italy was. Even in Italy I was playing up front by myself, with two people marking you, it was very difficult to adjust. I adjusted eventually and the other players adjust to you, and I learnt much more about the game when I was in Italy.
NK: What did you miss most about the English game while you were out there and what from playing abroad would you have liked to have brought back to the English game?
IR: I think what you miss most probably more than anything else is the team spirit. Playing in England, especially Liverpool, you had a great team spirit and you all played for each other. In Italy, at Juventus, lot of it was individuals and if they played well it doesn’t matter if the team wins. But at Liverpool it was most important that the team won and we had a great team spirit and that was what I missed more than anything.
I would have liked to bring that into Juventus but that didn’t happen but you learn more about the game. What I brought back from there was my knowledge of football. You learn more about different positions. When I left for Italy I was an in the box player. When I came back I was more rounded, on the half way line. I became a better all round player.
NK: Why do you think it is that more British players don’t go and play abroad?
IR: I think it is different now. I think financially all the money is in England. When I played it was in Italy. Wales not qualifying for international tournaments meant I had to go and play against Diego Maradona, Michel Platini, Marco Van Basten. They were all in Italy and I wanted to go and see what it was like to play against them.
NK: Speaking of Wales, how do you think they are currently set and who do you think are their young players to look out for?
IR: They have a difficult group, they could win it or come forth, that’s how tight the group is. The big game is against Belgium tonight [Wales lost 2-0]. Belgium have some up and coming stars and they look a really good team, but from a Wales point of view, Gareth Bale is without doubt one of the best players in the world and he needs to perform. Aaron Ramsey is another one there; we have these 2 players and Joe Allen who just signed for Liverpool so they have the basis of the side there, but they just have to put it together when they play for their country.
NK: What was your favourite goal that you scored?
IR: I don’t have a favourite goal; a lot of people ask me that! I have a favourite game because my job was to score goals. Every goal I scored from one yard or 30 yards, I got the same feeling when I scored.
In 1986 when we beat Everton in FA Cup final, first time Liverpool won the double and first time a Merseyside derby in the FA Cup [final], at the time Liverpool and Everton were the best teams in Europe, not just England and we’d just beaten them the week before to win the league. [Liverpool were] Losing 1-0 at half time and then [went on] to win it 3-1. My dream as a kid was to score a winning goal in the FA Cup final and I achieved it when I scored two goals against Everton so that’s something that is always special for me.
NK: Who was the best player you played with and against?
IR: The best player I played with was Kenny Dalglish, he was great. We had a great rapport, I was very quick then and Kenny would put the ball into space and the understanding was unbelievable on the pitch. Without doubt Kenny Dalglish.
Best against, there are two really. In Italy, old Franco Baresi, he wasn’t the quickest, but I never got past him as his reading of the game was so good and the other one was Paul McGrath at Manchester United. He was absolutely incredible, very quick, always got on with his job and was a good header of the ball and he was very underrated as I think he was a superb defender.
NK: Why does Footy Matter to you?
IR: It’s what I’ve been brought up with and ever since I was a kid I played football. I love the game and it’s the game globally that people like. They can have all problems throughout the world, but football brings all these people together. For me it was incredible to play at the highest level and I love watching games now and that’s what it’s all about. Just enjoying yourself.
Ian Rush was talking at one of Carlsberg’s ultimate legend’s experiences at the Twelve Pins pub, London. Carlsberg is Official Beer of the England football team and could be bringing future events to a pub near you. To find out more go to www.carlsberg.co.uk