Rush praying that Rodgers can find The Liverpool Way
INTERVIEW:Ian Rush was in Dublin yesterday to launch his digital scrapbook (available on the App Store), so we went along for the most dangerous of assignments: interviewing a hero.
Childhood memories are fading but Rush in the 1986 FA Cup final lingers. Imagine the doubt of a seven-year-old boy when Gary Lineker outpaced Alan Hansen to make it 1-0 Everton. Butin a seismic second half at Wembley, Rush evaporated these doubts forever.
A son of Finglas and a great Dane assisted the process. Ronnie Whelan found Jan Molby, who threaded a pass in to Rush. He glided around Bobby Mimms (Neville Southall was injured), rolling it gently to the net before Craig Johnston could poach it.
Johnston celebrated the second Liverpool goal with a scissors kick but it’s the winner that outstrips every other memory from that day.
Molby, sensing space most footballers only dream about, found Whelan striding down the inside left channel. Whelan glanced up before sending in a low, curling cross to the far post that Rush nimbly teed up and then rocketed into the far corner for 3-1: the league and cup double captured for the first and only time in Liverpool’s history. A month or so later Diego Maradona captivated the entire planet. But Rushie was our first love.
This would go on forever. This was my team. Now, 26 years later and not a single Premier League title. Istanbul in 2005 is banked but Liverpool have only been genuine contenders for the league title three times in modern times.
“It will take two or three years but as long as you see progression the fans will stick with Brendan Rodgers’ style,” says Rush now. He talks constantly about The Liverpool Way. Liverpool were about winning titles. But when Manchester United captured their 19th title in 2011, the great domestic era of Liverpool was eclipsed.
“The supporters know he needs time. We can’t keep changing all the time. Four managers in four years, that’s just not The Liverpool Way. They’ve tried everything else so now give a young manager time.”
Rush brought up his brief dalliance with The Old Lady before we could. In the 1987/88 campaign he scored seven goals for Juventus, a miserly return compared to 346 goals in 660 Liverpool games over 16 and a half seasons.
A veil of mediocrity fell over him, much like the one Fernando Torres is gradually creeping out from underneath.
“I went to Italy as a boy and came back a man,” he said. “I was spoiled at Liverpool but in Italy I had to do things for myself. I learned so much about life. But it was different. There was a team spirit in Liverpool. In Juventus it was all individuals. A lot of them weren’t bothered as long as they played well. That has crept into the English game now.
“I should have gone to Italy and told them I was the best player in the world but imagine I said that in the Liverpool dressingroom? I would have been slaughtered.”
Dalglish intervened. “I could have gone to Man United, Everton, Rangers, Bayern Munich but Kenny rang and told me I was coming back.”
The only Scouser not glad to see him back at Anfield was John Aldridge. And all the Evertonians, who he tortured once more, scoring twice in that same Wembley goal in the 1989 FA Cup final.
The Rodgers’ way is a return, to some extent, to the Liverpool Way, which allowed ball players like Molby and Whelan to shine.
“Barcelona took in from Liverpool in the 1980s: you work harder when you haven’t got the ball. When you have the ball, make sure you don’t give it away. That’s what Barcelona do. That’s what Brendan is trying to do now.
“When you go to training sessions you see them receive the ball in tight situations: be comfortable on the ball and play your way out of it.”
The current fly-on-the-wall documentary Being Liverpool paints Rodgers in an ultra-positive light: “He learned from Mourinho. That’s the way to be with players today. You have to give them confidence, especially the youngsters.”
It’s going to take time, though, isn’t it? “Yeah, it will not happen overnight but as long as you can see progression. Apart from the Aston Villa game, I think they have been unlucky this year. The supporters are keeping the faith.”