Over the next hours, days and weeks, the internet will be inundated with tributes from around the footballing world for one of football’s great soldiers. Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher has called time on his playing career, and will retire at the end of the season.
To many, the news will mean little. The retirement of a footballing dinosaur – his legs gone, his best days firmly behind him – is not big news. Indeed, Jamie Carragher represents an old school of Great British defending that some will be happy to see the back of. But on Merseyside, the news is a dagger into the heart of Liverpool Football Club.
They just don’t make them like him anymore. Somewhere along the line, technical ability leapfrogged character, pass completion percentages overtook the tackle count, and being a ‘ball-playing defender’ became more prevalent than good, solid defending. Call me a purist, but this is bad for the game, and it goes against everything that makes British footballers different to their European, and South American counter parts. Jamie Carragher is the last bastion of everything that is being coached out of tomorrow’s footballers.
He’s the best England captain they never bothered with. Carragher made 38 appearances for the Three Lions, which in any other era would have undoubtedly been over 100. His long-term position in the pecking order behind John Terry and Rio Ferdinand could be argued as a fair one, but the reasons England manager after England manager overlooked him for players such as Jonathon Woodgate, Matthew Upson and Ledley King remain completely unknown to many. Had he played in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, Jamie Carragher would have been an England legend. England’s loss was Liverpool’s gain.
Battling cramp deep into extra time, Carragher stretches out his right leg, disregarding the agony it causes him. The ball cannons off his studs for a corner, and Liverpool remain at 3 goals to 3 against AC Milan. His face says it all, pained, struggling, but all too aware that his club needs him. Dietmar Hamann, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Benitez are often the men praised for that incredible Istanbul evening, but in their vice-captain was a glowing example of the character and heart that lifted the trophy. He was my man of the match.
His ability to sniff out danger around his penalty area, and it was always his penalty area, is something that cannot be faked. Carragher had, and still has, the unteachable ability to be in the right place, at the right time, and the nous and composure to deal with the situation once in it. His no nonsense approach to physical opposition forwards is something that may well die with his retirement – those battles with Chelsea wrecking ball Didier Drogba will go down as one of the Premier League’s great rivalries.
Football aside, Jamie Carragher represents everything that makes Liverpool Football Club different to so many others. He represents tradition, strength, an image of greatness, a sense of pride. With Steven Gerrard, he is the last surviving member of the Istanbul heroes, let alone the treble-winning side of 2001. ‘The end of an era’ is a cheesy line used all too often, but in this case, it is never more relevant.
His tally of seven hundred and twenty-three appearances (so far) for the red men is a number that may never be reached again. The hope is that one day he reaches that number from the dugout.Published 08 Feb 2013, 10:50 IST