Liverpool superstar Ian Rush was in Australia recently and FourFourTwo was lucky to spend some time with the Anfield legend to discuss his playing experiences with Australians Craig Johnston, Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton.
Liverpool’s all-time leading goal scorer Ian Rush is considered one of the Reds greatest ever players, having won five English First Division League titles, three FA Cups and two European Cups. In the first part of our Q and A series Rush talks about his time with Craig Johnson at Liverpool, Harry Kewell at Leeds, his time playing in Australia with Sydney Olympic and the support he gets from Reds fans in downunder.
During the 80’s both you and Craig Johnston won League, FA Cup, and European Cup titles together for Liverpool, what was it like playing with the Australian?
Well he’s obviously a pioneer for Australian football. He was a great player, he came from Middlesbrough and it was all about him getting a chance. He was so desperate to make it and he went out and did it. What I know about Craig is that he would run and work all day. Ability wise he would tell himself he wasn’t probably the most gifted player, but the effort he put in more than made up for it.
He was one of them players, he worked really, really, hard, he was a very fit person, he’s one of those people that kids should look up. Gift wise he might not be there but if you really want it like he did you can go up there and get it. That’s what he did and he was very successful and that’s why he will go down in Liverpool folklore as the first Australian really to win a title, win an FA Cup, a European Cup and everything and it was like a dream come true for him.
How did Craig Johnston’s succuss at Liverpool help open other doors for Australian players like Harry Kewell for example?
I think he did open the door. Especially for Australian football. They like heroes to look up to and the likes of Harry Kewell they looked up to people like Craig Johnston and said I want to do that. A lot of Australians that come to play in Europe, not just England but Europe have made the national team a lot better for the experience of playing in Europe.
I was at Leeds when Harry Kewell was just a young kid, and he always had something. As did Brett Emerton. I played for Sydney Olympic with Brett Emerton and he came over just after Harry.
But it was a great experience for them and when Harry first signed for Liverpool I had seen what he was like at Leeds and he had great skill and I just maybe feel he didn’t get the chance he deserved.
I think Injuries played a major part but he was very, very gifted, he was completely different to Craig, he was very, very gifted Harry. Unfortunately, because of injuries and all that he didn’t get to do what he had in his locker.
Can you tell us about that period when you first came across Harry at Leeds?
Howard Wilkinson was the manager. Harry was at the youth academy at Leeds and he came up during pre-season. He played against Huddersfield and he was very, very cocky as a young lad. I think you have to do that. For him to go over there he believed in his own ability, there is nothing wrong with that. Paul Hart was the youth team manger there and he said that this lad is very, very, gifted. When he played in the pre-season he was a left back but was basically playing in the forwards, he was fit and everything.
That is what I remember of him. Again, when I was the striker coach at Anfield I was there as well you could see on the training pitch he had a tremendous left foot and plenty of ability.
You mentioned your time at Sydney Olympic. You are probably the most popular Welshman in the Greek community can you tell us about that time?
I loved it, I came to play a couple of games for Sydney Olympic and it was a Greek club back then. For me it was my first time in Australia and it was a great experience to come to Australia and to play in that league was something special.
Nick Politis who owned the club back then he was the one trying to get more people to watch Sydney Olympic. I remember the first game it was live on TV as well and it was raining. I wasn’t expecting that but it was great time for me. To score on my debut, actually, every time I’ve made my debut at a club I’ve never scored, that was the only time that when I’ve made my debut I’ve scored.
It was also my last professional goal in football after that I retired, so my last professional goal was with Sydney Olympic.
You mentioned Brett Emerton as well what was your impression of him?
We won 2-0 in that game and Brett scored the other goal, he was always very, very skilful on the wing. He kept going past people and putting great crosses in, and he was always destined to go to Europe and Blackburn.
He said he wanted to come over with Harry Kewell but he wanted to play in the Olympics so after the Olympics he went over to Europe and I thought he did, very, very, well for Blackburn Rovers.
You were a guest player for Sydney Olympic, do you feel you helped open the doors for more well-known players like yourself to come and play in Australia?
Hopefully yeah, before Robbie Fowler came over he rang me and asked me what it was like and I said go and experience it because it would be a great experience. If you have a bad experience I tell them that but I didn’t have a bad experience I had a very good one. It opens the door for different things as well.
It was the first time in Australia for me then, I met nice people it’s a lovely country and I came back a year later to open a Soccer School in Adelaide and that goes to show we know what potential is there but also, it’s also nice to come back again.
Are you surprised by how much support you get from Liverpool supporters in Australia?
The Melbourne game surprised me, when they had 98,00 there. That really surprised me. I think we were in far east where you expect that sort of thing and you come to Australia where soccer is like the fourth or fifth sport and you don’t expect to get that many.
But when you get 98,000 there it was amazing. It just goes to show the power of Liverpool Football Club in Australia. Also the legends game, to see so many people there just goes to show the brand of Liverpool Football Club is very popular and a lot bigger than what I thought it was in Australia.