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Former Liverpool and Wales idol Ian Rush at Hereford Academy
LIVERPOOL legend Ian Rush brought football fever to The Hereford Academy — but the mums and dads were probably more star-struck than their children.
The Kop idol signed books, old and new Liverpool strips, T-shirts and photographs as he marked the opening of the school’s impressive new Third Generation All-weather pitch.
“A lot of the boys and girls here never saw me play but your name lives on and, still to be connected with Liverpool Football Club, is a big thing,” said the ex-Liverpool and Wales record goal-scorer.
“It’s great to see so many of those supporters in Hereford.”
Several hundred people watched Rush cut the ribbon to officially open the pitch last Saturday before he dribbled a ball, flanked by a group of children, on the artificial surface. The project was supported by the Football Foundation, Herefordshire Council and the Herefordshire FA.
“It’s been lovely — it’s been an absolute dream,” said teacher Tina Probert, who enjoyed a cuddle with Rush.
“He’s been a legend since I was about 10 and it’s been great to bring along my children. I was so excited to meet him,” she said.
Tina was among hundreds of fans who lined up inside the school’s building to collect Rush’s autograph and have their photograph taken with him.
Rush, who scored 346 goals for Liverpool, said: “I’ve been to Hereford quite a few times but it’s the first time I’ve been to Hereford Academy.
“It’s got fantastic facilities — the 3G pitch is a great facility and, hopefully, from the local community and for the boys and girls, they will improve from that.”
Legendary Liverpool marksman Rush said that teamwork had been the recipe for success in his spells at Anfield.
He praised the people of Herefordshire and emphasised the need for communities to work together.
“You win nothing as individuals when you’re playing team games, so it’s all about working as a team. If you want to be successful, you have to work together.
“That applies to the local communities. I was brought up in a little town called Flint which is similar to this community.
“For local communities to improve they need everyone singing from the same hymn-sheet and when they’ve got facilities like this, it’s a great advantage.
“It gives the boys and girls an incentive and it’s well done to Herefordshire and the local community.”
Academy principal John Sheppard said Rush’s visit had marked an important day for the school and he collected a £50,000 cheque from the Football Foundation.
“I am glad so many people from the community came along and supported us.
“Ian Rush talked about the important things like the community and working together as a team. They are things that we aspire to.
“We are now looking forward to being able to open the rest of the sporting facilities in the next few weeks.
“Hopefully, by the end of the summer term we’ll be playing rugby on the new pitch.”
Rush said artificial football pitches had improved since his playing displays.
He added: “It’s the way that the world has gone and, for local boys and girls to succeed, they need facilities like this.
“Gone are the days, when you used to run on concrete and muddy pitches and this is the way forward.
“It’s been like this in Europe for the last 20 years. If you want to improve your technique you need a proper facility like this 3G pitch to help you do it.”