Tranmere lead chase for Rush signature

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The Independent Online
Tranmere Rovers, of the First Division, are preparing to move for the Liverpool striker Ian Rush.

Frank Corfe, the chairman of the Endsleigh League club, confirmed yesterday that they are trying to secure the services of the 34-year-old Wales international, who is being granted a free transfer by Liverpool at the end of the season.

Tranmere, whose Prenton Park ground is only a few miles from Rush's home on The Wirral, signed to great success another prolific Anfield striker, John Aldridge, at 37 the division's leading scorer with 19 goals.

"When someone of Rush's calibre living in your home town becomes available then you have got to be interested," Corfe said. "Now that it is public knowledge he will be leaving Liverpool, the manager and I will be talking shortly about the possibility of an approach."

Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Oldham and Swansea are other clubs said to be interested in signing Rush, while Celtic could also make a move after offering pounds 750,000 for his services in November.

It is a measure of Liverpool's wealth of goalscoring talent that the club is to allow Anfield's most prolific marksman to leave.

However, it will not be without a degree of reluctance that Roy Evans, the manager, will let Rush go on a free transfer when his contract runs out. Rush scored 345 goals in two spells with Liverpool: he moved to Juventus for pounds 3.2m in 1987 only to return to Anfield for pounds 2.8m the following year.

Evans said yesterday that he wanted Rush to sign a new contract, but that he was willing to acknowledge the striker's need to play first-team football at this stage of his career.

"It has not been a selfish decision by him. He has been very fair. And in football, things can change very quickly," Evans said. "I would rather he was staying with us but he wants first-team football, and a player of Ian Rush's stature and ability deserves that. We have discussed the options and, as always, he realises our position, so he has agreed to stay until the end of the season."

After talks with Evans and the chief executive, Peter Robinson, Rush has agreed to see out the remaining months of his contract. With Liverpool still involved in the FA Cup and with an outside chance of snatching the Premiership title, there is also an added incentive.

Evans added: "We've come to an agreement that he will stay. If I did let him go now and something happened to Robbie [Fowler] or Stan [Collymore], where are we going to buy someone as good as Ian Rush? You can't, it's as simple as that."

Rush, who now holds all but one of Liverpool's goalscoring records, and is only one strike short of Geoff Hurst's League Cup tally of 49, has been pushed out of the first-team picture by the fearsome front-line pairing of Fowler and Collymore.

Since losing his place with a knee injury that required a cartilage operation last November, Rush has made only three substitute appearances, and he was on the bench again for last night's FA Cup fifth-round tie with Charlton.

"It will be a terrible wrench to leave but there comes a time in every player's career when he must put himself first," Rush said.

"I believe I have two years left in me and I can score goals at the highest level but to do that I need to be playing regularly.

"I wanted to go before next month's transfer deadline but have agreed to stay until the end of the season. The last thing I would want to do is upset anyone at Anfield, because they have always treated me brilliantly."

Rush joined Liverpool from Chester for pounds 300,000 in September 1979, and has scored 404 goals in his career. Roger Hunt's total of 245 League goals is the only Anfield record not in his possession, and Rush remains 17 short of Hunt's record.