58. Ian Rush
Performers (135 votes)
Liverpool and Wales football hero who won more medals and scored more goals than any other player of his time.
In a large house on the Wirrall a trophy cabinet groans under the weight of its glittering contents. They tell the story of a player who broke all goal-scoring records in the FA Cup, matched Geoff Hurst’s record in the League Cup, won five Championship medals, one European Cup and a Golden Boot.
But when Bob Paisley paid Chester £350,000 for Ian Rush (a transfer record for a teenager) in 1980, only to see him struggle in the second team for most of the year, it appeared the Liverpool manager may have made an uncharacteristically expensive error of judgement.
Nobody really knows what triggered St Asaph-born Rush to become a goal machine at the highest level, but once he started, he couldn’t stop. Lean and wiry, he had phenomenal pace and keen instincts. He could find the direct route to goal rather than skipping elegantly through opposition defences.
Rush spent two seasons away from Anfield at Juventus between 1986 and 1988. He struggled to find a way through the deep-lying Italian defences and --unlike fellow Welsh football legend John Charles- did not settle easily into the Italian way of life.
He allegedly used to request food parcels of baked beans to remind him of home. He will also spend the rest of his life kicking himself for delivering the unforgettable quote that he found Italy “just like a foreign country.”
Nonetheless, the goals started flowing again on his return to Liverpool and Rush enjoyed a further eight years of headline making, before spending short spells at Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield United and Wrexham.
His only rival for back page glory was England’s Number 9, Gary Lineker, but former Liverpool and Ireland defender Mark Lawrenson is in no doubt who was the superior player: “Rushie was better than Lineker because as well as being a fantastic goal scorer his work rate was phenomenal.”
A measure of his ability is his scoring prowess for Wales – a record 28 goals in 73 appearances, none more memorable than his truly heroic winner against the mighty West Germany in a 1991 European Championship Qualifying match at Cardiff.