Saturday 20 January 2018

Ian Rush exclusive: I watched Ireland with envy during the Charlton era... now it's our turn

Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton (right) and assistant manager Maurice Setters celebrate their team's victory over England in Stuttgart during Euro 88
Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton (right) and assistant manager Maurice Setters celebrate their team's victory over England in Stuttgart during Euro 88

Ian Rush

Something profound happened to me last weekend. There I was, immersed in the Wales v England match, when I found myself back in the body of my 25-year-old self. The camera in the corner of the net was knocked off its stand and I wheeled away in celebration.

With that strike, seven minutes from time, one of my lifelong dreams had been fulfilled. Wembley Stadium 1986.

Scoring the winning goal in an FA Cup final elevates you to unparalleled heights. Doing it twice - which I did when we beat Everton again in the 1989 final - is something that is quite difficult to put into words.

Same city, different stadium and all of 29 years after the ecstasy of my first FA Cup final win, and another dream was fulfilled.

Lloyd Williams showcased sublime soccer skills that would not have looked out of place in Wembley back in 1986 and Gareth Davies raced through to score the vital try that would help Wales beat England in the Rugby World Cup. Sounds good even to say it again. Wales beat England in the Rugby World Cup and another lifelong dream came through.

Watching the Welsh celebrate not only provoked memories from 86, it also regurgitated unfilled dreams stored away in my brain.

Wales are now one place behind Brazil in the world rankings and sitting top of our qualifying group for the European Championships in France next year.

When you look at the quality of players that have pulled on the red jersey, it’s scandalous to think that the country has never qualified for the Euros and made the World Cup just once - way back in 1958.

It was always my dream to play for Wales in a major tournament but it never happened for me. Now my dream is to see Wales play in a major tournament.

Somebody asked me a question recently: What would you rather see, Wales win the Rugby World Cup or Wales qualify for a major tournament. I thought it was a good question and my answer was to see Wales qualify for a major football tournament.

Just look at what Jack Charlton did for Ireland. I long  for days like what Ireland had under Charlton, he made the country stand up. Half of Wales will be in France if we qualify.

Jack Charlton made Ireland into a monster and teams were afraid to play against them. With Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, they have the right men in charge. It would be great if all the home nations made it and the Republic are in the right position to make it now.

With so much good things happening so quickly, it's not such a bad thing thing that the quest for glory is very much a long term project back on Merseyside.

There is no simple solution but there needs to be an acceptance from fans that the past is the past and while we should never forget the history of Liverpool FC, it’s time to move on. It’s time to understand that we are where we are and in the words of Shankly and Paisley, it’s all about baby steps.

There is a lot of frustration right now, on and off the field but you only have to look at Chelsea. Look at Manchester City. Manchester United are top of the league. The top four is well up for grabs.

Brendan has been there for a few years now and you do need to deliver. Daniel Sturridge is back now and has been quality, although you can’t bank on one player. Liverpool need to get it right in every aspect of the club.

The owners are making all the right noises, they are giving the manager money to spend but every top gaffer, when they don’t win games, their position comes under scrutiny and Liverpool is no different.

Teams are coming to Anfield now thinking they can win and they come and have a go. We need to make Anfield into a fortress again. But fans have to understand that it is a different era now.

The departure of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have left a void at Liverpool. Fans love their home grown heroes. But you don’t have to be from Liverpool to become a hero.

Look at Manchester United, They don’t have Scholes, the Nevilles, Beckham and those lads now. Liverpool are exactly where Manchester United are now but they managed to qualify for the Champions League last year and now they are top of the Premier League without having played all that well.

The right structures are in place at Liverpool but patience is now key. Just look at what Wales went through to get this far.

As Jessie Owens once said: "We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort."

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