ANFIELD, Liverpool - If there was one man the footballing gods created for derby games, Ian Rush was the perfect specimen.
During his Liverpool career, the former Wales international, now 52, scored 25 goals in Merseyside derbies - more than any player from the Reds or Everton.
Rush was in fine form last Saturday when The New Paper sat down with him for an interview in a small, cosy room tucked away in the bowels of Anfield, less than two hours before the 223rd Merseyside Derby watched by a full house of 44,511.
Dressed sharply in a black suit and white shirt with an inevitable red necktie, the Reds' record scorer (346 goals) was in his element, sharing fond memories of his career and offering his take on what lies ahead for his beloved club.
1) What does the Merseyside Derby mean to you?
RUSH: It's incredible for the city of Liverpool and for me. I scored more goals in derbies than anyone. This brings back memories for me. It's always great excitement on the day for the city of Liverpool. It brings back so many happy memories.
The most memorable goal has to be the one in the FA Cup final in 1986, and also the one in 1989. The first goal I scored in 1989 was the one which beat the record for the number of Merseyside Derby goals, which was previously held by Dixie Dean.
2) What do you think is the reason for Liverpool's poor start this season? Is it because of the Champions League commitments?
It's a combination of many factors. Maybe we over-achieved last season (by finishing second). We're just getting a feel of reality now. We have a stronger squad than last season, but we have Champions League football. For the players, it's a matter of getting the confidence. Then it'll be okay.
3) Is it also because of the second-season syndrome?
When you have a good season, the second season is always the hardest. Expectations are high now. Everything fell into place for us last season. We didn't have many injuries. Now the expectations are there. What we have to do is to maintain the expectations by finishing in the top four.
4) Do you see promising signs despite the difficult start?
You can see that this team are still a work in progress. There's a lot to be done. It's about sorting out the defence. Brendan Rodgers is working on keeping it tight at the back. Going forward, we always look capable of scoring. But I think we are a lot better than we were two years ago. We're still letting goals in, and that's the problem.
Last season, we were letting goals in, but we were scoring more. This season, we are still letting goals in, but we are not scoring more, and that's the difference. The team who will win the Premier League title this season will not be the one with the best attackers, but with the best defence. That makes Chelsea the favourites to win the league.