Rush Backs Sturridge To Shine

Mark Thompson

Daniel Sturridge has made a hugely encouraging start to his career at Liverpool Football Club and has garnered praise from many sources. Few tributes will have pleased him as much as the admiration of goalscoring legend, Ian Rush.

On the playgrounds and pitches of my childhood, after a custodian's net was breached, the most common celebratory refrain of the kid wheeling away in glee was a solitary word; a word which was synonymous with goalscoring -- "Rush!"

The Welshman was a remarkable footballer, a one-off in many ways, and the spearhead of some of Liverpool's finest sides. Over a sixteen year spell from 1980 to 1996, interrupted only by a season with Juventus, Rush scored three hundred and forty six times in six hundred and sixty appearances -- a ratio of better than one in two. The man was simply phenomenal.

The infamous moustache fancier was the most unique of talents, a genuine thirty-goals-a-season man, and he found the perfect home for his particular skill-set at Liverpool, alongside the club's finest-ever player -- the visionary Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish. Watching those two men combine on a football pitch remains the most sublime experience of my nigh-on four decades as a Redman.

Over the years since those heady days, we've seen glimpses of similar partnerships -- John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and John Aldridge in Dalglish's wonderful late eighties side, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres in Rafa Benitez's Euro-conquering team, and latterly, Phillipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge have begun to show the tentative signs of a potentially wonderful combination for Brendan Rodgers, having both arrived in the January transfer window.

Rush has been bounteous in his support of Sturridge, pointing out the sundry talents of the England striker, who has notched a very creditable eleven goals in only sixteen appearances for Liverpool to date. Those are the figures that prompted noted face-botherer and arch-tactician, Roy Hodgson, to select Sturridge to lead England's attack recently. Alas, our number fifteen suffered an injury which will impair his pre-season preparation somewhat. Rush, however, is confident all will be well for player and club.

HE'S GOT A GOOD FOOTBALL BRAIN, COUTINHO HAS AS WELL... -Ian Rush

"Sturridge can get even better, without a doubt," the Welshman told Liverpool's official website. "He's got some great skill and with a good pre-season, I think you will see an even better Sturridge next season. He needs to get fully fit. He was absolutely incredible in some of the games. He has got a good football brain, Coutinho has as well -- some of the passes he put through were absolutely superb."

The finest striker in top-flight history is confident of the team's continued development over the campaign to come. He cites, in particular the array of match-winners that will be available to Brendan Rodgers, "when previously we had only two." Rush's point will be weakened if, as seems inevitable, Luis Suarez forces the move he wants. If, however, Iago Aspas is only the first of a number of quality attackers who come into the club, then the Welshman's observation stands.

"Sturridge has had a couple of little injuries but if he can get fully fit and get through the pre-season, then I think there are exciting times ahead. We know we can keep clean sheets. We are an attacking team who do create a lot of chances but it's all about putting them away. I'm looking forward to the new season. You look at the other teams, like Manchester United, with the manager gone, so if we can get off to a good start then I think there are exciting times ahead."

The last point really tickled me, gentle reader. Proper, old-school winner that he is, Rush couldn't resist the chance to have a little dig at United and David Moyes -- simultaneously highlighting the loss suffered by United and the unproven nature of the man they've chosen as a replacement. I've heard some people credit the former Dark Lord of Mancunia with introducing psychology, so-called mind-games, to English football. This is patent nonsense. Dalglish, Rush, Shankly et al were wonderful talents and gifted men but each knew the value of a psychological edge.

Should Daniel Sturridge and his team-mates live up to the talent they undoubtedly possess then perhaps we jaded, cynical and wary Liverpool fans can look forward to some of these "exciting times" of which Ian Rush speaks. In the interim, let's remind ourselves of what a fantastic footballer we have on our hands.

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