Liverpool FC, being as big a club as they are, have fans who do not confer the title of ‘Legend’ as easily as other clubs and their set of fans might. However, the Merseysiders have raised Ian Rush to a pedestal, making it impossible for every player to wear the Red shirt – a distant dream. And that is a fantastic testament to his greatness at and with this club.
Liverpool and Rush
Rush, who was born in Wales, began his career with Chester FC before moving to Liverpool as an 18-year-old, despite growing up as a fan of Merseyside rivals Everton.
Rush was the most expensive teenager in football at the time, thanks to Liverpool’s £300,000 fee, though he was later sold to Juventus for £3.2 million.
Rush needed nine senior appearances for the Reds to open his account, and his early struggles were enough for him to request a transfer away from the club, however manager Bob Paisley denied the request.
He immediately gained a reputation for his ability in front of goal, as well as for the amount of ground he covered during a game.
Rush would go on to make 660 appearances for Liverpool and 73 times for Wales, scoring 28 goals for his country and being Liverpool’s top goal scorer.
A trip to Turin, Italy
In May 1985, as the then-European powerhouse Liverpool attempted to retain their title as the best on the continent against the Italian might of Juventus, the ‘darkest event in UEFA history’ unfolded, with 39 fans killed and several others injured as a result of violence between the two sets of fans.
Despite the significance of the event, UEFA opted to proceed since any other action would have risked encouraging greater violence. The Turin side won the match 1-0 as Liverpool failed to defend their championship and received a six-year ban from European competitions as a result.
The financial loss that Liverpool faced as a result of their exclusion from European competitions could only be offset by the sale of Ian Rush to Juventus, who jumped at the chance to play in the elite competition and test himself against what were thought to be impregnable Italian defenses at the time.
His one season in Italy was not how Rush imagined, he found it difficult to adapt to the Italian way of football.
The Liverpool top goal scorer managed to find the net on 14 occasions and after a season in Italy, he would eventually make his way back to the place he calls home – the Anfield!
Following Rush’s departure, Liverpool signed John Aldridge as a successor. And, with John in such good form, Rush had to be on the bench more frequently than not.
On April 15, that season, the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest saw what was possibly the worst stadium disaster in British history, with 96 people killed in a crush at the Hilllsborough stadium.
When Ian Rush scored a brace in extra time against bitter rivals Everton to win the FA Cup, it was a fitting homage to those who died.
Rush’s final League title came in the 1989-90 season, interestingly Liverpool’s 18th and they have did win the league for the next 30 years.
Rush’s scoring touch, which had made him the player he was, was fading with each passing season. He lost his speed, which hampered his goal-scoring ability. Rush began the 1995-96 season as the team’s first-choice striker alongside Stan Collymore, but he was soon replaced by the young, brilliant Robbie Fowler.
Rush departed Liverpool for Leeds United in the summer of 1996 after scoring 346 goals for the club, and his record as the club’s top goal scorer remains unbroken to this day!
Former Liverpool striker on Ian Rush
“I think Rushie would be the first to admit that in training he just looked like an ordinary player. He didn’t have the explosive pace, but all of a sudden, as soon as he got in the first team, he caught fire. He surprised everybody.
“He gained three or four yards of pace, his touch was great. His record speaks for itself, what a great player to be replaced by. I feel good about it.
“I would have felt worse if somebody had replaced me not as good. He wasn’t the best of trainers, but a great, great, great player for Liverpool. A class act.” – David Johnson, former Liverpool striker who was effectively replaced by Ian Rush.