Time is ripe for Reds to clinch title: Rush
Ian Rush insists Liverpool can win the title next season ... just one problem: he's been saying that since he helped fire the club to their last one, more than 20 years ago.
Yet there is genuine reason to believe that this year the former goal-scoring idol of the Kop could finally be proved right, with the club transformed under Kenny Dalglish and this week's signing of 20-year-old England midfielder Jordan Henderson for a reported GBP20 million set to be the first of many.
'If you ask me, I'll say we'll win the league - but I've been saying it since 1990,' smiled Rush, in Hong Kong to promote Liverpool's summer tour of Asia, where they will play games in Guangzhou, Malaysia and South Korea. 'That's the expectation of the club, the history of the club. You have to be optimistic every year and one year it will happen. But realistically, we've got to look at the top four at least next year.
'I saw [Henderson] when he came to Anfield; I think he's going to be a regular England international. I'm very pleased they got him. He likes to get forward, he'll get you the goals, he's strong and plays a bit similar to Steven Gerrard.
'I think he'll learn a lot from him [Gerrard]. It's a fantastic signing.'
And director of football Damien Comolli promised fans yesterday that it won't be the last. Ipswich's 18-year-old striker Connor Wickham, Blackpool's Scottish midfielder Charlie Adam, and Japanese playmaker Keisuke Honda are said to be on the shopping list, while left-back Gael Clichy looks set to swap Arsenal for Anfield.
'Liverpool are getting young players in and that's what it's all about,' added Rush, 49. 'I'd like to see a wide player and some defenders, but with Kenny it's not the team, it's the squad. If we can get two or three more in we've suddenly got a great squad there. Then you get competition for places and that's what it's all about.
'If you get injured and someone comes in and plays well, with Kenny Dalglish he'll stay in, it's as simple as that. That's how we were successful in the '80s.'
Twelve months ago, Liverpool fans were burning effigies of the team's owners, and the appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager was greeted with apathy at best. Now, with Rush's old strike partner in charge and new owners who seem happy to give the manager cash and take a back seat, the atmosphere could not be more different.
'It's amazing the change,' Rush said. 'I know it shouldn't, but not knowing what's going on with the ownership, it does affect players. Players are coming in now happy with smiles on their faces. Everywhere around the club and the city people are smiling and can see light at the end of the tunnel.
'Roy Hodgson was unlucky because the fans wanted Kenny in the first place and when they were losing they should have been blaming the players but they were blaming Roy Hodgson.
'I think one of the most important things has been the partnership between [assistant manager] Steve Clarke and Kenny. Steve Clarke is a fantastic coach but Kenny commands respect. He's not the coach, he's a man-manager who knows what it's all about being on the pitch.'
Rush could soon be part of that team, with Dalglish keen to get him involved full-time with the academy. For now, though, he's in no doubt the club is in safe hands - and if his prediction is proved wrong yet again next season, Rush insists it's only a matter of time.
'We want to win the league next year but I don't think it's a disaster if we don't.
'The hard work starts now for Kenny, he knows that as well, because there's expectations now and that's what Kenny loves.'
The number of goals Ian Rush scored for Liverpool.
- He won five titles, three FA Cups, five League Cups and one European Cup