Born in St Asaph, Flintshire, Rush’s reputation was enhanced by scoring for Chester City in a shock 2–0 FA Cup third-round win at Second Division side Newcastle United in January 1980, with Chester City equalling their best run by reaching the last 16 where they narrowly lost to Ipswich Town. His last game for Chester City was a 2–1 win over Southend United at Sealand Road on 26 April 1980 in which he did not score.
Despite interest from Manchester City, and in spite of Rush being a boyhood Everton fan, Liverpool won the race to sign the 18-year-old in April 1980, though he had to remain at Chester until the end of the season as the transfer deadline (27 March 1980) had passed. Recommended by chief scout Geoff Twentyman, Liverpool paid a record fee for a teenager of £300,000. It remained Chester City’s record sale until they went bankrupt in March 2010. Rush was managed throughout his time at Chester by Alan Oakes, although much of the credit for his development is given to youth manager Cliff Sear. Nearly 20 years later, Rush and Sear worked together on the coaching staff at Wrexham.
Rush made his international debut, in May 1980, just before he officially became a Liverpool player. His Reds début came on 13 December that year in a First Division fixture at Portman Road against Ipswich Town. He was standing in for his future strike-partner, Kenny Dalglish (out with an ankle injury but at the time one of the most highly-rated strikers in the world), and wore his No 7 shirt. At this stage, Liverpool was defending the league title and the League Cup, and also contending for the European Cup, while Ipswich was emerging as surprise title contenders. Liverpool finished fifth (with Aston Villa winning the title), but they did win the European Cup (for the third time) and the League Cup (for the first time).
The young Rush during his first season at Liverpool mostly played reserve team football rather than being thrown into the first team. His first goal for the club took time to arrive, but it eventually came on 30 September 1981 during a European Cup first round second leg tie at Anfield against Oulun Palloseura. Liverpool had already won the first leg at the Raatti Stadium 1–0. The second leg they won 7–0 with Rush scoring in the 67th minute after coming on three minutes earlier for David Johnson.
His first two league goals came on 10 October 1981 in a 3–0 home win over Leeds United, and a month later he scored in the Merseyside derby at Anfield in a 3–1 win. After Christmas however, Rush and Liverpool moved from tenth up to the top of the league. He scored a hat-trick in the 4–0 away league win over Notts County on 26 January 1982, and was on the scoresheet in both of the next two games. He managed a total of eight goals in the League Cup (one of them in the final win over Tottenham Hotspur) and three of them in the FA Cup campaign which ended in a fifth-round defeat by Chelsea. He ended the season as the club’s top scorer, netting 30 times in 49 appearances in all competitions, a ratio of 1 goal every 1.6 games. 17 of these goals came in the League as he helped Liverpool reclaim the League championship from Aston Villa. He also scored a goal to help Liverpool win the 1982 Football League Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur.
He was voted PFA Young Player of the Year in 1983 after helping Liverpool to a second successive First Division/League Cup double, though once again success eluded them in the European Cup. He scored 24 League goals as Liverpool finished 11 points clear of runners-up Watford. On 6 November 1982 Rush scored four goals against Everton in a 5–0 victory, a post-war record for goals by a single player in a Merseyside derby.
Liverpool’s third successive League Cup triumph in this was added through a 2–1 win over Manchester United after extra time at Wembley. He was voted PFA Player of the Year and BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 1984 as Liverpool retained both the League and the League Cup and won the European Cup to complete a unique treble that season. Rush also added the Football Writers Footballer of the Year to the PFA award he had already claimed – the same feat that his strike partner Kenny Dalglish had achieved a year earlier.
He scored 47 goals in 65 games (making him the highest goalscorer in all competitions for any professional club that season), a goal every 1.4 matches, as Liverpool finished three points clear of closest rivals Southampton in the League. They beat derby rivals Everton 1–0 in the replayed final of the League Cup (after a 0–0 draw in the first-ever all-Merseyside final). They also won their fourth European Cup by defeating AS Roma 4–2 on penalties (Rush made it 3–2 before Bruce Grobbelaar’s famous ‘jelly legs’ antics) following a 1–1 draw after extra time.
The 1984–85 season was Liverpool’s first trophyless season in ten years, though they did reach their fifth European Cup final against Juventus in the game of the Heysel Stadium disaster. Before the match kicked off rioting football hooligans caused a retaining wall to collapse, killing 39 Juventus supporters. The game ended in a 1–0 win for Juventus. Liverpool was beaten to the title by neighbors Everton, who have crowned champions with four matches to spare. The sequel to the Heysel disaster was an indefinite ban on all English clubs in European competition, with Liverpool set to serve an extra season once the ban was lifted on other English clubs. This meant that Rush and Liverpool were unable to compete in the 1985–86 UEFA Cup.
The 1985–86 season Rush scored twice as Liverpool beat Southampton 2–0 in the FA Cup semi-final at White Hart Lane, booking a place at Wembley to face Everton in the first all-Merseyside FA Cup final. Liverpool had pipped their city rivals to the League title (which had also been contested with the likes of West Ham United and Manchester United) by beating Chelsea 1–0 at Stamford Bridge. Everton opened the scoring when Gary Lineker outpaced Alan Hansen to shoot past Grobbelaar at the second attempt and held this lead until half-time. In the second half, Liverpool drew level in the 57th minute when Rush latched onto a pass from Jan Mølby to round Everton goalkeeper Bobby Mimms and slot the ball into an empty net. Six minutes later, Mølby was again at the heart of another attack. Picking the ball up inside the Everton penalty area, he drilled a cross for Craig Johnston to score. Liverpool was now 2–1 up, but the game was in the balance until the 84th minute when Ronnie Whelan led another attack. With the game stretched, he picked the ball up and drove towards the edge of the Everton area. Dalglish made a run across his path into space, but Whelan used it as a dummy and clipped a pass over three Everton defenders into the path of Rush who, from the angle of the six-yard area, scored past Mimms. Liverpool held on to win 3–1 and completed the first (and so far only) League and FA Cup double in the club’s history. Rush added the Man of the Match award to his winner’s medal. However, the ban on English clubs in European competition was continued, and Liverpool was unable to enter 1986–87 European Cup.
Since Dalglish’s appointment as player-manager in the 1985 close season, Rush had often found himself partnered with Paul Walsh in the Liverpool first team as Dalglish selected himself as a player less frequently.
A true Liverpool legend. Then he was transferred to Juventus for a British record transfer fee of 3.2 million.