Tuesday 20 February 2018

Ian Rush: I banged in four against Everton and the man I was marking wouldn't talk to me on the way home

'The week of a derby had a tension to it. It still has. The number of fans attending the training ground increase. They say the same thing now as they did back then.
'The week of a derby had a tension to it. It still has. The number of fans attending the training ground increase. They say the same thing now as they did back then. "Don't lose. This means too much to us".' Photo: Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images

Ian Rush

Bob Paisley took me aside. In my early days at Liverpool, he often would. He had that knack, that way of making you feel important, or - like on this day - of giving you extra responsibility.

It's 1982. I'm 21 years old and at a club that has won three European Cups and is regarded as the best team in the world. The players around me have made it. I have still got something to prove.

Yet I am the one Bob picks out, the one he speaks to in a special way, loud enough for the others to hear.

"There hasn't been a hat-trick in this derby since 1935, our kid," he says. "You can beat that record."

I did. I scored four that day. And the man who was marking me had to give me a lift home. We barely spoke on the journey.

Two days later, Kevin Ratcliffe, my room-mate on Welsh international trips, picked me up for training, as he often did that year, because I had picked up a six-month ban for speeding.

"This can't go on," he said. "You've got to get your own way home."

We were mates. Good mates. But when we left Goodison Park the previous Saturday, Kevin got more stick from the Everton fans than I did. By Monday, his wounds had yet to heal. That's the effect a Merseyside derby has on a player. It was a massive game then and remains one today.

As the build-up to today's game intensified, I thought back to those words from Kevin and Bob 33 years ago. And I thought about the words other people would say - Phil Thompson, Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish.


The week of a derby had a tension to it. It still has. The number of fans attending the training ground increase. They say the same thing now as they did back then. "Don't lose. This means too much to us."

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When I was a young man, older players like Thompson would educate me on the importance of the fixture. Later I'd pass on that message to younger men as I matured from new kid to elder statesman.

Steven Gerrard has that responsibility now. Before, he had Jamie Carragher for company when the lecture was delivered. Foreign players need to know that this isn't just any old game. This is one that means so much to the fans.

Outsiders may not realise why. Liverpool-Everton has a huge importance to it but it isn't a nasty rivalry. There isn't hatred.

I think of 1989 and Hillsborough and the Cup final that followed. We walked out at Wembley that day and red and blue were mixed in all four sides of the ground. That never happened before. There was always division. But not here.

Families can be split down the middle when it comes to Liverpool-Everton. I know because that was how our house was. My two brothers were Toffees, my dad a Red.

And I remember my first derby, supporting Everton, seduced by the noise of the crowd, the swaying on the terraces, the frenzied atmosphere.

Bob Latchford was my hero. That season, 1977-78, he got 30 league goals, which seemed, at the time, like the football equivalent of Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute-mile. The next player to do that in English football was me.

As a player, I loved derby day. The atmosphere touched me in the same way as it did when I was a kid. The noise. You always remember the noise. When you walked out the tunnel, it hit you. It made you run. The adrenaline pumped inside you and you knew you'd be in for a battle.

Everton could give it to us. Those games were physical. Kevin would always kick me in the first five minutes. Just a brutal, deliberate kick. We'd drive home and I'd say, "what did you do that for?"

He'd laugh. "No ref will book you in the first five minutes, Rushie, will they?"

That was the culture then. It was a tough world and Everton were a tough team. A tough team but a seriously good one. Younger people don't understand how strong they were. If I told people under 30 that for three years, from 1984-87, that Everton and Liverpool were two of Europe's best five sides, they'd laugh.

In '86, the first year English clubs were banned from European football following the Heysel Disaster, Everton and Liverpool had just won the League and the Cup Winners Cup, respectively. Had they been allowed to enter the 1985-86 European Cup,one of them would have won it. I've no doubt about that.

That team, from Neville Southall in goal, down the spine with Ratcliffe, Peter Reid, Gary Lineker and Graeme Sharp, with Trevor Steven and Kevin Sheedy on the flanks, was superb.

Yet after 1987, when they won their second title in three years, they went into decline. They remain a big club. Look at their attendances. Look at their history. They have won more league titles than Manchester City and Chelsea combined.

The last decade - the noughties - was the first since the 1950s when they didn't win a major trophy. Last year, they came good. This season they have lacked consistency. You can no longer say they are one of the best in Europe but they will believe they can be best on Merseyside today.

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My three favourite Merseyside derbies

1. 1982 - Everton 0-5 Liverpool

Long before he was a pundit, Alan Hansen was as good a ball-playing centre-half as any. He was brilliant for Liverpool and on this day, his creativity was unbelievable. Two of my four goals were set up by Hansen.

Two more came from through balls as Everton played a high line and we stuck to the simple but practical advice Bob Paisley gave to us. "Time your runs Ian, and deliver your passes lads." We did. To score four goals in a Merseyside derby was special.

2. 1986 FA Cup final - Liverpool 3-1 Everton

As a kid, my dream was to get the winner in a FA Cup final. I didn't get that on this day but I did score two, the first to equalise, the second to make it 3-1. This was the first time that the two Merseyside clubs had made it to the Cup final. We were the best two teams in Europe that year and it showed. Everton were good. We were just that little bit better.

3. 1989 FA Cup final - Liverpool 3-2 Everton

Hillsborough will never leave us. That year's FA Cup final meant so much to the supporters of both clubs. They travelled together to the game and sat beside each other, during it. When I reflect on how Everton reacted to the Hillsborough tragedy, it is with a touch of class. That continues today.

Two years ago, Bill Kenwright delivered a brilliant and touching speech at a Hillsborough memorial service and when I think of how he acted, and how his club have acted since those awful events in Sheffield 26 years ago, I have to say that the club should be very proud of themselves. They played with pride that day at Wembley.

They came back from 1-0 and 2-1 down to equalise. Stuart McCall was their two-goal hero. Fortunately, I also scored twice in extra-time. I wanted to win for the supporters given all they had gone through. All any of us wanted to do that day was give something to them. We did. Both teams were desperate to win. I'm glad we managed it.

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