Soccer

Rush recalls how Liverpool’s historic night in Rome was sparked by unlikely tune

It is the eternal city, and for Liverpool, it has provided eternal pride.

Rome, 1977, their first European Cup triumph. But 1984, that was the greatest. Gladiators, fronting the might of Roma in their own bear-pit, it was a night of legend, stories of folklore.

Ian Rush, a Spartacus of that night and that remarkable season, agrees. He admits he can talk for hours on memories of that game: the spaghetti legs, the unlikely hero, singing pre-match as they waited in the tunnel (surreally, Chris Rea’s ‘I Don’t Know What It Is But I Love It’).

“You can talk about the tunnel, the singing, but it was the feeling we had,” said Rush.

“I honestly went into that tunnel thinking, ‘We’re not going to lose this’. I think Roma felt that too. You could see it in their faces.

“As we were singing, they were looking at us, as if to say ‘Seriously. You’re coming into the Colosseum, the lion’s den’. We were going into that theatre with a true belief in ourselves, an incredible spirit and it shocked the Italians.”

It wasn’t a misplaced belief. That ’84 team is arguably the best Liverpool ever had and produced, without question, the greatest season in the club’s 127 year history.

Rush was at his majestic peak, scoring 47 goals that season. “I always maintain it was 50, as I scored two for Wales, and in the penalty shoot out against Roma!” claimed Rush. with a glint of a smile.

There was also a mass of individual honours to go with a trophy treble.

Rush picked up both Footballer of the Year awards, a Welsh one too, and the First Division top scorer. It was another prize which made him most proud though.

“I won the European Golden Boot that year,” he said. “The first time a British player had done it.

“The feeling? Pride. These days, I get people asking me, ‘Were you a good player?’. Yes I was a good player, I can say that now I don’t have to do it any more. I couldn’t say it then without looking like a big head!

“The stats are there. Look at that treble. We were a fantastic team, and I think that year, it all came together for us. It was the perfect mixture of youth and experience.

"There were world class players like Souness and Dalglish, real experience, and younger lads coming through.

“The manager Joe Fagan instilled a perfect balance and a real belief. It was a wonderful team.”

Beating Roma in their own stadium in the final is a feat that remains unprecedented.

After Phil Neal’s opener, the Italians levelled, and seemed content to go to penalties. A mistake.

Grobbelaar’s wobbly legs and the unlikely sight of left back Alan Kennedy, who admitted to being hopeless from 12 yards, converting the winning penalty, ensured the trophy was Liverpool’s for the fourth time in eight years.

Rush laughs about the shoot out now. If it wasn’t that supreme Liverpool team, you could deem it farcical.

“Graeme Souness was organising it,” recalled Rush. “Him, Nealy. Me. Kenny had gone off, and that was it, no one else.

“The only two who volunteered were Alan Kennedy and Bruce. Souey went with the keeper. I swear he was sixth man!

“Then as Souey was still doing the order, Steve Nicol just picked up the ball and marched forward. Missed.

“That ripped up the order, we couldn’t afford another miss. That’s how Kennedy came to take the winning penalty!”

Rush is modest about his own role. Bruno Conti’s miss meant it was game on, and his spot-kick was suddenly vital.

“There were 60,000 screaming at me Deafening. The walk from the half way line was the most frightening time of my life.

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