Liverpool’s forthcoming European Cup tie against Welsh Champions TNS has brought two former Reds goalscoring legends back into the Anfield spotlight.
A player with his own European Cup winners medals, Ian Rush, could even make a playing return at Anfield. Rushie is a close friend of TNS managing director Mike Harris who’s hoping he can persuade the 43-year-old to dust off his boots make an appearance for TNS.
Rush played for a Liverpool legends team at Anfield earlier this year in a Tsunami benefit game and it was clear then that he was still pretty sharp. Rush says he’ll have a word with his friend about the prospect – a prospect he finds mouth-watering: "For me personally, it would be incredible to play against Liverpool. You have to be realistic about things and playing against the European champions would be a massive ask. But I certainly wouldn’t rule it out and will speak to Mike and see what he says."
Speaking to PA, Rush said that fitness wouldn’t be a problem: "I train every day and keep myself very fit by playing regularly. Playing at Anfield again in such a big game would be unbelievable and it would no doubt raise the profile of the game even more. I think I’d rather be sitting in the stand next to Mike watching the game and enjoying myself, but the lure of playing against Liverpool would be something special."
Rush is representing Liverpool in the Master tournament in Sheffield this weekend but didn’t mention calling up any of his other former colleagues to help TNS out. Rush thinks that Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground will be a better option than the Millennium for the TNS home leg. The final decision on the venue hasn’t been made yet, but Rush have his view: "If the first leg had been at TNS, then I think the Millennium Stadium would have been an ideal venue because of the size of the stadium. But there’s a chance Liverpool will have the tie sewn up after the first leg at Anfield, so the Racecourse Ground would be ideal for the second leg. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Liverpool and rather than have a half-empty stadium, it’s better to play at a packed Racecourse."
Another striking legend for Liverpool, Robbie Fowler, gave his advice to Liverpool on facing the team his current club came up against two years ago in the UEFA Cup. Manchester City played TNS in 2003 and won 7-0 on aggregate, but says the tie will still be difficult for the European Champions: "Playing Liverpool is going to be TNS’s FA Cup Final but it’s going to be very difficult for Liverpool whatever the outcome. Liverpool are in a no-win situation. When you play non-league teams everyone expects you to win. If you win 8-0 everyone says ‘I told you so.’ But if it’s only 2-0 it’s considered a poor result."
Fowler says that City were up against an unknown quantity and that this will probably be the same for the Reds: "We didn’t know much about TNS before we played them and Liverpool will be much the same, even if they get a scouting report. The main thing is Liverpool don’t have to travel. When you see their hectic schedule for August and September, playing a team from Wales is the best possible result."
Fowler thinks that Liverpool must be positive for the first leg: "Playing the home leg first you would want them to have four or five in the bag and then rest the big boys for the return."
Current Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard is looking forward to the game, but is quick to point out that the Reds aren’t counting any chickens: "We are going to be massive favourites, but we will treat TNS with respect. We won’t underestimate them. This will like their World Cup final, it is that sort of occasion. It is a great draw for TNS. I am sure our lads will swap shirts with their players and I hope that they enjoy it."
The fact that this is such a big game for TNS means that their games will be raised – with out without Rushie – and Gerrard says the Liverpool will have to make sure they perform: "We won’t take it easy because that’s when these games become banana skins. I know they have a few Scousers in the their side and I am sure that a few of their players have dreamed of playing at Anfield. It is nice that dreams come true."