Rush: Legal battle no excuse for Liverpool

BELFAST, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Uncertainty over Liverpool's takeover is no excuse for the club's on-field troubles and they can still aim for a top-four finish despite lying in the relegation zone, all-time top scorer Ian Rush said on Friday.

While the Premier League club's board does legal battle with owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the proposed sale of the five-times European champions to New England Sports Ventures (NESV) hangs in the balance.

Fans have protested for months, saying the owners' lack of investment in new players - because they are spending the money on debt interest payments instead - has made the team unable to compete with the best.

"You can't keep on blaming the takeover for not getting results," Rush told Reuters in an interview at the Grassroots Football Summit in the grounds of Belfast's Stormont estate.

The 48-year-old, who scored 346 times for Liverpool in two spells at the club in 1980-87 and 1988-96, said players should not be distracted by boardroom issues.

"You are paid to do your job on the pitch," he said, while outside the pavilion window teams of enthusiastic youngsters showed off their football skills.

Liverpool's chairman Martin Broughton said on Wednesday the board had accepted a 300-million-pound bid from NESV, owners of Major League Baseball's (MLB) Boston Red Sox.

Rush said he did not mind who the new owners were as long as they shared supporters' values.

"It has been dragging on... The most important thing is to get the club back to where it belongs," the Welshman, who is still involved in Liverpool's academy, said.

"As long as they are on the right lines with what the supporters think, with what they feel about the club, we are quite prepared to listen to anything that's right."


With six points from seven games, fans have questioned whether manager Roy Hodgson is up to the job he took on in July following the departure of Rafa Benitez.

After Sunday's embarrassing 2-1 home defeat by promoted Blackpool some sections of the crowd chanted for the return of ex-manager and player Kenny Dalglish.

Rush said it was too early to talk about changing managers, even if his former boss - who won eight league title at Anfield as a player and manager - was "a fantastic manager".

"You've got to get behind the manager. He's only just started. Roy Hodgson is a great coach and a great person, Kenny would be the first to get behind him," he said.

"I don't think you can talk about Kenny taking over when people are in the job."

Dalglish himself, who was also at the conference, declined to discuss any Liverpool-related matters.

Rush said a lack of confidence was the root of Liverpool's poor league position and victory over local rivals Everton in their next match on October 17 would be the tonic they needed.

"It's not where they want to be and I'm pretty certain they won't stay there for long," said Rush.

"They are only five points from the Champions League play-off (place), the season has only just started. I think a realistic target is qualifying for the Champions League."