Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Rush interview

I don't know why some of our footballers behave as if they have lifted the Fifa World Cup. Perhaps they could learn a modicum of humility from former Anfield great, Ian Rush.

I met him face-to-face in Kuala Lumpur during his three-day striker's clinic recently. Unfortunately the clinic was remembered for the wrong reasons when four Selangor attackers skipped the closing ceremony as they were summoned by coach Dollah Salleh to prepare for the FA Cup clash with Perak the following day.

This piece below was carried by the Malay Mail on March 27, 2008.

IN an exclusive interview with Mailsport's RIZAL HASHIM, Liverpool legend Ian Rush who completed his three-day striker's clinic at the National Sports Council yesterday, talks about the Heysel tragedy, fish and chips, the bootroom influence and of course, Fernando Torres.

Mailsport: Welcome to Kuala Lumpur, Ian.

Ian Rush: Thanks. It's my second time here. It's a beautiful country
with beautiful people.

MS: How do you see our players, Ian, having worked with our strikers
for three full days?

IR: I was impressed by a few players. I thought they possessed good
technique and finishing. The one who once played in France (Akmal Rizal
Ahmad Rakhli), your first-choice national team striker (Safee Sali) and
the pony-tailed one (Liewould Kit Kong) were the three who caught my eye.

MS: Can you tell us why?

IR: Overall their technique is comparable to that of their English
peers. Kit Kong's movement was quite interesting. Safee was aggressive
while Akmal's technique is polished. I could see why he was sent to

MS: If their technique were passable, what are the factors hindering
our progress, Ian?

IR: I'm not sure but I think the players must improve on their fitness.
They have to realise they have to work hard to attain the cutting edge.
There's no short cut to success. I also noticed the boys could do with a
lot more concentration and focus. In order to maintain focus, mental
toughness is required. It's essential if they were to build on what they

MS: A striker's coach is essential nowadays, do you agree, Ian?

IR: Yes. I was the first striker's coach in Britain when Gerard
Houllier brought me back to Anfield in 2003. But except for a few teams
that really place emphasis on coaching the strikeforce, the idea has not
really caught on. When I was hired to work with the Liverpool strikers
namely - Michael Owen, Emile Heskey, Milan Baros and Florent
Sinama-Pongolle - Phil Thompson was already working as the defensive
coach and Sammy Lee as the midfield coach. The forwards carry out the
most important role in the team and it is only natural they be given the
help to raise their game.

MS: How many Premiership outfits have a coach to work specifically with
the strikeforce?

IR: Ole Gunnar Solksjaer now is part of the Manchester United backroom
staff. Alan Shearer is said to be helping the strikers at Newcastle. But
they are the odd ones out.

MS: French champions Lyon seem to realise the importance of the
striker's coach, with their former attacker Sonny Anderson on their
payroll, tasked with the job of teaching Karim Benzema, Fred, Sidney
Govou and Kader Keita the art of goal-scoring.

IR: Just like a goalkeeper coach, a striker's coach is also a crucial
component in building a team. Sonny's appointment is no doubt down to
Gerard who was there for two seasons. To me, Gerard is one of the most
knowledgeable coaches in the world, if not the best. He thinks far ahead
of his time.

MS: I have to agree. In fact I've met him twice and the last time was
in 2005 in Kuala Lumpur, when he touched on Owen's persistence in
strengthening his weaker foot in a football symposium conducted by the
Asian Football Confederation.

IR: You can make a STG1 million (RM6.24 million) player into a STG2
million player with the right coaching. It all boils down to confidence.
With someone like Owen, for instance, he is such a good player you might
only want to improve him by half per cent. A younger player may improve
by 10 per cent with the right guidance.
It was true Michael had the tendency of positioning himself to shoot
with his right foot, whereas in a game you will find yourself in
situations which call for quick reaction using both feet. Michael often
brought the ball back to is favoured right foot. Since then he has
scored crucial goals using his left foot (notably in the 2001 FA Cup
final against Arsenal and the Super Cup against Bayern Munich).

MS: You are famed for your training methods, among which was to
practise by aiming into the side of the net inside the goal.

IR: (Laughs) I firmly believe the chance of hitting the net is higher
if you place the ball or side-foot it home. I do sessions on this now. I
would put a cone a yard in from the side post and aim to get the ball in
between the two. If you blast the ball, there's a 50 per cent chance
you'll score. If you aim to hit the side-netting, there's a 70-80 per
cent chance you'll score. But you must know when to place the ball or
when to blast it.ould

MS: You were privileged enough to work under a number of great managers
at Liverpool, members of the famous boot room namely Bob Paisley, Joe
Fagan, Ronnie Moran and later on Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Roy

IR: Yes I was very lucky. They shaped my career. Paisley signed me way
back in 1980. He was a man of few words, yet he projected a quiet yet
strong leadership and charisma. Like Dalglish, Paisley spoke to and
motivated players individually. Dalglish liked to take the pressure off
his players and assumed full responsibility. He was fond of telling the
players "you do your thing and let me worry about it".
He was good at making 18 or 19 players think on the same frequency. The
team camaraderie was unbreakable under Dalglish. Whenever Fagan spoke, we
listened. Moran was the one who got on your back with his shouting and
cajoling. The team were brought up to respect team ethics, the team come
first, goals second. Souness blooded prodigious talents like Robbie
Fowler and Steve McManaman during the transitional period.

MS: Which do you consider as the greatest Liverpool team?

IR: The 1984 team that bagged the treble (the league championship, the
European Cup and League Cup) and the 1986 team that lifted the Double.

MS: Do you have an all-time best XI of Liverpool?

IR: Well, it's hard to pick 11 players throughout the decades. I was
lucky to have played alongside some of the best, I reckon. Dalglish was
the best to me. Between Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar, Clemence had a
slight edge.

MS: You were there during the Heysel tragedy and again at Hillsborough.
Did these tragedies change your outlook in life, both as a footballer and
a person?

IR: Yes, definitely. A lot of people died in that two incidents and it
changed your life. It dawned on you that there was more to life than
football. It is just a game.

MS: People talked about the similarities between you and John Aldridge
at Anfield in the late 80s, not only in terms of looks but also style of
play. They claimed you could not combine with Aldridge.

IR: True but we dispelled the notion by producing of 24 goals between
us in 20 games, if I'm not mistaken.

MS: Legend has it you could not survive without fish and chips, wrapped
in newspapers, after every match.

IR: (Laughs) Its true. Those were the days when the whole team ate fish
and chips on the coach in our journey home. Moran was the chief supplier.
We'd all be sitting there with greasy fingers eating our fish and chips.
But the English game has taken a continental form, which is for the
better, and eating fish and chips is a treat nowadays. Today's
footballers eat rice and pasta.

MS: I remember an advertisement featuring Phil Neal gulping down a
glass of milk back in the 80s.

IR: Yes, we took milk one or two days ahead of match day.

MS: Back to the present, how do you describe Liverpool's prospects in
the Champions League?

IR: Once they beat Inter Milan, I'm sure all the clubs fear Liverpool.
I believe Rafa Benitez's men can go all the way. Since they are not
likely to win the league title, the Champions League is a strong source
of motivation for them.

MS: Name your top five strikers.

IR: On current form Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player but I wouldn't
call him an out and out goalscorer. You'd have to put Fernando Torres
there. I like Miroslav Klose because he brings people into play and a
great finisher, and also Raul. If you want a true goalscorer, then Ruud
van Nistelrooy is a must. Didier Drogba is coming back to form after the
change of manager.

MS: Who do you think will be the favourites in Euro 2008?

IR: The usual suspects, I suppose. But Germany will be there and
thereabouts. I am certain there will be a surprise package.
It's difficult to predict because there is little to separate the top

MS: What does the future hold for Wales, now that you are involved in a
part-time role as the Elite Performance Director for the Welsh Football
Trust? I remember the days of Leighton James, Mickey Thomas, Bryan Flynn.

IR: I worked with the Welsh Under-17s four years ago and a number of
them have graduated into the senior team, namely keeper Wayne Hennessey,
defender Chris Gunter and Lewin Nyatanga. The Welsh Under-21 beat their
French counterparts 4-2 recently and I believe the new generation has the
potential to leave a mark.
But you cannot transform our fortunes overnight. It's a long-term

MS: Tell us about your family.

IR: I have two sons, Jonathan, 18, and Daniel, 15. Jonathan is attached
at Wrexham as a striker and is pursuing a degree in sports psychology.
Daniel plays local football but is more inclined towards golf. My wife
Tracy is the backbone of the family.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Memanglah Rush cool,..tengok la dia main team mana dulu, yang menang euro 5 times...hehehe
-Malaysian scauser