The words Jamie Carragher are as synonymous with Liverpool as bad perms, bright tracksuits, ‘calm down’ arm movements and stolen hub-caps. In fact if you were to ask an artist to draw up a caricature of a typical scouser then they wouldn’t go far wrong if they were to sketch the scally like features of Jamie Carragher. Hardly surprising for a man that was born in Bootle, Merseyside and wears his Liverpool heart on his sleeve.
In a world where loyalty in football is becoming about as rare as a purple chimpanzee Jamie Carragher is, well… a purple chimpanzee. Having joined Liverpool in 1987 aged 9, Carragher has served the club for 26 relentless years. His tenacious avoidance of temptation to join another club has seen the defender notch up 723 appearances for the Reds, that is a feat only surpassed by Ian Callaghan who played 857 times for Liverpool during the 60’s and 70’s.
Carragher’s decision to hang up his boots as a professional footballer, at the conclusion of the current campaign, will come as sad news for a vast majority of admirers. Not only has he been an incredible servant to Liverpool Football Club, but also to English football in general. His character and no nonsense football style has acted as the epitome of what is great about the English game. Namely, a never say die approach, a willingness to put his body on the line and an explosion of unrivalled passion.
The words used during the announcement of his retirement alone echo the professionalism in his nature and undying pride to play for Liverpool. Carragher said, "This will be my last season at Liverpool and my last as a professional footballer.”
"I'm making this announcement now because I don't want the manager or the club to be answering questions on my future when I've already decided what I am going to do.”
"I will be fully committed between now and the end of the season to doing the very best for Liverpool Football Club, as I've done my entire career since joining aged just nine-years-old.”
"It has been a privilege and an honour to represent this great club for as long as I have and I am immensely proud to have done so and thankful for all the support I have had. There are many memories I want to share and people to thank, but now is not the time for that.”
Like Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, Carragher was an Everton supporter as a child, yet when a player trades colours and ends up winning 12 major trophies throughout his career (only 3 less than bitter rivals Everton since 1872) things like that are easily forgotten. Having worked his way through the Liverpool academy Carragher made his debut for the seniors in 1996-97 and scored in his first full appearance against Aston Villa the same season. Fast forward to 2012-13, aged 35 years old, and Carragher can boast 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 2 Community Shields, 1 Champions League, 1 UEFA Cup and 2 Super Cups.
Jamie Carragher has quite literally been there, done it, got theLiverpoolt-shirt. He’s played right back, defensive midfield, and centre back, was part of the infamous “Spice Boys” era and has seen Evans, Souness, Houllier, Benitez, Dalglish, pass through the Liverpool door.
Not only was he a magnificent professional for Liverpool, it must not be forgotten that Carragher served his country 38 times, not including his appearances for the ‘B’ and Youth teams. However, after missing a penalty in the 2006 World Cup against Portugal, it became clear where his heart truly lay during a well publicised text message to Kenny Dalglish that read, “at least it wasn’t for Liverpool.” A statement that endeared him to the Kop End even more.
Jamie Carragher will never be remembered as a beautiful footballer, nor would he ever want to. The mere presence of the half way line was enough to make the defenders nose bleed profusely. He also holds a tendency to put the ball into his own net, second only to Richard Dunne. In fact Carragher has scored more goals for Tottenham Hotspurs than he has at the right end of the pitch for Liverpool. But I should tread carefully here as former teammate Rigobert Song knows only too well. Speaking in his autobiography ‘Carra,’ the Liverpool defender told of the constant mockery received from Song with regards to his defending style, "Song walked on to the training pitch with a smile on his face. He was limping off it with a grimace an hour later. The first chance I got, I did him. Never have I hunted down a 50–50 tackle with greater appetite. 'You're not fucking laughing now, are you, you soft cunt?' I said as he hobbled away.”
But fancy football was not what Carragher was about. He would charge into tackles like an out of control bowling ball, he would bark instructions to teammates like a stray dog possessed by rabies and he would dive in front of a football as if intercepting a bullet aimed at his mum. Jamie Carragher was a leader, an inspiration, a one club man. His name will sit fondly next to other Liverpool legends that looked no further than a sign proudly proclaiming ‘You’ll never walk alone.’ Players like Gerry Byrne, Ray Lambert, Billy Liddell, Bob Paisley and in the future Steven Gerrard.
It is not just the Red of Merseyside that will miss Jamie Carragher, but the simple game of football itself.
image: © faisalzaman