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“I HAD THREE DREAMS COME TRUE”

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Ian Rush, the former Liverpool striker and record goalscorer in FA Cup final history, tells ShortList about the magic of Cup final day

What makes the FA Cup such a special competition?

As a kid, I never dreamed of winning the league. I just dreamed of scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final. I used to watch the FA Cup and just go out and pretend I was the person who scored the winning goal. The first final I remember was 1973 when Leeds got beaten 1-0 by Sunderland. As a fan, you just enjoy supporting the underdog.

You won the FA Cup three times, in 1986, 1989 and 1992. Which one is most memorable?

I’ve had three dreams come true really. When I won in 1986, I didn’t think it would happen again. In 1992, I knew I had more goals in FA Cup finals than anybody else, but I’d have to say 1986 [is the most memorable] because it was my first FA Cup final and everything I had dreamed of as a kid. We had never really had a good FA Cup run when I was playing for Liverpool in the early Eighties. We always seemed to fall at hurdles. If you speak to Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish, it was a first for them too.

How did you feel on the morning of an FA Cup final?

When you woke up Saturday morning, it hit you. There are fans outside your hotel cheering you on. When you’d get to breakfast everyone was buzzing. Then you’d get changed into your FA Cup final suit. On the coach going to Wembley it really kicks in. You’d see supporters everywhere you go. You’d know this was a special game.

Did playing at Wembley add to the sense of occasion?

Yeah, the changing rooms were so much bigger than anywhere else and that makes you feel this is an unusual day. When you walk out of that tunnel, it is like no experience ever. It is an incredible feeling. You couldn’t really explain it. It gives you goose bumps. Singing <Abide With Me> is another goose bump moment.

Players are always greeted by a member of royalty. Do they ever stop for a chat?

When you get royalty shaking your hand it feels extra special for the players. The Duchess of Kent was there once and I remember her saying, “You are the one that scores goals, aren’t you?” Hearing that from royalty felt strange, but just gave me a little bit of extra confidence.

You’ve scored a record five FA Cup final goals. Do you remember your first one?

It was in 1986 and it was memorable because it was against Everton, our big rival. We had just won the league the week before and we were losing at half time, so to score two goals and come back and win was like everything rolled into one.

How did you feel when you climbed the Wembley steps to collect the trophy?

When we’d won the cup and were going up the Wembley steps to pick up the trophy, we were more happy for the fans who had come to watch us than ourselves. And that says a lot about what the competition means. When you’re walking up to collect the trophy, the fans are really close and put scarves around you and caps on your head. That’s what it’s all about: making those people happy.

Were you aware of just how much the FA Cup meant to the fans?

Fans still come up to me now! Liverpool supporters will come up to me when I’m out now and talk about the FA Cup, saying, “Thanks for the great memories, I was there at Wembley and I have never forgotten it.”

Do you still have your medals and cup final shirts?

Yes, I have got all my medals in a cabinet and my 1986 shirt is on show in my snooker room. I was lucky enough to win a lot of medals, but that 1986 shirt takes pride of place for me.

You also experienced the joy of the underdog when you beat Newcastle with Chester. How did that compare?

It was a fantastic day. We beat Newcastle 2-0 and I scored. They were in the first division and we were in the third. That was my first taste of the FA Cup, playing in front of a big crowd, scoring a goal and that kind of game typifies what the FA Cup is all about. But when I came to play for Liverpool the roles were reversed and people upped their game to try to beat us. We lost to Brighton once so I suffered an FA Cup giant killing too.

What is the best FA Cup final you have watched as a fan?

Liverpool against West Ham (in 2006). Steven Gerrard scored a wonder goal. I was at the game, and you couldn’t see any way back for Liverpool (who were losing 3-2) and then one moment of magic from Gerrard changed everything. The memories come flooding back. You just wish you were out there yourself.

(Main image: Rex Features)

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