Legendary striker thinks Rodgers is the right man for the job…
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Having recently visited India to study the ISL, what’s been your experience of the country and the football culture?
Rush: ‘My experience in India has been an interesting one. They’re very passionate whatever sport is being played. Cricket is obviously number one, but they’re very passionate about football and they love football. I came here for the start of tournament and we’ve got the final this evening and I must say the players have learnt pretty quickly. At the start they were out of position a lot, but now looking at the semi-finals their positioning is 100% better now compared to what it was. So that shows they are learning very quickly from the coaches and foreign players that are here.’
How big is the gap in ability between the ageing football legends and the local Indian players – and has a particular Indian player seriously impressed?
‘Two players have stood out. A winger called Ahmed who scored the first goal for Kerala Blasters when they beat Chennaiyin in the Semi Final and a striker for Chennaiyin called JeJe who’s been impressive. They’ve both done very well.
The gap is mainly technically and the lack of experience, but they’re just as good. It’s then down to playing more football and in front of big crowds and having the calmness to play. Sometimes they get excited when they play in front of big crowds. It’s all about learning how to keep their heads. It’s the same with fans too, they can be over excited, it’s all about keeping your nerve.’
How surprised were you by Liverpool’s bad start to the season?
‘I’d call it indifferent rather than bad. I think Liverpool over achieved last season and I think they had the rub of the green last season. We’ve not had the rub of the green this season and we’ve been very unlucky with injuries. So really it’s no big shock where we are. We’d like to be in a better position but it’s no great shock where we are. A lot of the players still need to gel as a team, so we’ve got to give Brendan time to do that. In January you’ll have a good idea where we can aim for. If you’re 5th or 6th you’ll aim for the top four, if you’re 6/7 you’ll aim for 4th or 5th and if you’re 8th or 9th you’ll be aiming for 5th or 6th. There’s so much football over the Festive period I think come January you’ll know what you need to bring in and I think that’s what most clubs will look at.’
Is Brendan Rodgers the right man for the job – and if so – how can save the campaign?
‘Brendan’s the right man for the job. People want instant success nowadays. It was only a couple of months ago people were calling for Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger (to go). When you’re under this pressure that’s what happens, but what you’ve got to realise is that managers need time. Again we’ve got new players that need time to gel. I’d say that if we reach the top four and win a trophy it will have be a successful season. So we’ve got to judge him later down the line, you can’t judge him now. Fans get so excited because we came second last year, if he won the league he’d be a hero everywhere. But even if we won the league, we’d be in the same position as we are now. We weren’t in the Champions League last season, we didn’t have many bad injuries and in fairness we’ve lost Suarez and Sturridge, that’s 80% of our goals. So if you put it that way, it’s not a complete shock that we are where we are.’
Do you think the team needs to strengthen in January, and which player would you most like to see arrive?
‘Well that’s down to the manager, the manager gets paid for that job. I think Sturridge coming back will be like a new signing. Sterling down the middle seems to be working. The best I’ve seen this year is when we played Tottenham when we had Sturridge, Balotelli and Sterling all playing on the pitch and they played really really well together. That’s what I’m looking forward to, those three playing in attack. Then I’d say we need to stop leaking goals. If we can do that, we’ll be back on track again, because I do feel we’ll score goals. Against Manchester United we created a lot of chances. Last season we’d concede two goals, but we’d score three goals because we had Sturridge and Suarez. We haven’t got them now, so we need to stop leaking in goals, it’s as simple as that.’
For the first time in his Liverpool career, Steven Gerrard has been criticised this term. Which position should he be used in to maximise his effectiveness?
‘First of all Gerrard’s done so well over the years for Liverpool you can’t criticise, for me. You can criticise him for his own standards, they’ve been so high over the years. But even Steven Gerrard now is one of Liverpool’s best players. He’s the third highest played player. Only Sterling and Mignolet have played more than him. So that tells you something in itself. He’s still one of Liverpool’s best players. Against certain teams he’s better further up the pitch, against others, he’s better holding. I like to see him further up – for his shot at goal. He’s better shooting 20/30 yards at goal, rather than passing 20/30 yards into the oppositions area.’
Just how good can Raheem Sterling be, and should Liverpool pay him the enormous wages he’s apparently after?
‘Well this of course also comes down to agents, I think Raheem Sterling will be a better player if he stays. In my opinion he should stay for experience. You can leave somewhere very early and not become the same player you could have been. So in my opinion from Raheem’s point of view, I think he’s still got a lot to learn at Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers will look after him, he’ll know exactly what to do. He’s only 19/20, and you have to be careful you don’t pay like a 30-year-old’s wages. That’s the agent looking at that point of view, you can understand that point of view but at the end of the day you don’t want to be too greedy because he he will become a world class player, if he’s not already one now. I think he can learn, when he’s played him down the middle, he’s shown he can improve on his finishing. But that will come with experience and that’s why I think he needs to stay for another two or three years at Liverpool, for that proper experience. If he does leave it’ll be abroad and that’s a completely different experience. I did that myself at 25/26 when I moved to Italy and moving abroad can be dangerous too early. Gareth Bale left at the right time. I’d love to see Raheem see out his career at Liverpool, but at the end of the day it’s one step at a time for Raheem and get his experience at Liverpool and see what happens after that.’
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