Thursday, 7 February 2013

We all dream of a team of Carraghers

So Jamie Carragher has announced that he will retire from Liverpool, and football, at the end of the season. This is not a shock but, given recent performances, one wondered if he would continue on.

This may not be surprising but it is a profound moment for Liverpool fans. Fans, of all clubs, love to see local lads pulling on the grand old shirt. When those lads shine, and become greats of the clubs, their retirement is always a little more poignant.

The thing I will remember most about Carragher wasn't his sinew-straining, lung-bursting blocks or his body on the line approach. It wasn't his astonishing positioning.

It was his voice.

That voice could cut through the vast ranks of the Kop. Occasionally, at Anfield, you'll hear a Scouse voice - usually belonging ageing docker  - cutting across hundreds of men booming out songs. Carragher is the only player's whose voice I've heard do that. That voice could cut throw steel. It could make men walk through walls.

It is curious to think of a player who has played at the heighest level for so long to be under-rated but Carragher was, and is, under-rated. We will hear much in the coming days about oyalty and service. There is no doubt that Carragher personified those qualities.  We will hear even more about his solidity. Ultimately, though, Carragher was more than a loyal servant and he was more than solid.
He is a far better player than many realise who, often, kept world-class centre-forwards in his pocket.

Here is an intelligent player. Some would call it game intelligence, others nous.

Here is a player of supreme organisational abilities. It is no shock - even as that old Bootle body begins to creak - that, as all around him were losing their heads in the centre of Liverpool's defence, Brendan Rodgers turned to Carragher to bring order to the ranks.

Here is a man who, legitimately for a while, could feel hard done by to be behind various defenders in the England pecking order. 

And, ultimately, here is a boy who could play. Not just organise, not just keep the wolves from the Liverpool goal, but actually play. He could play anywhere in the defence or central midfield.  When people suggest he was a clogger, I remember this pass:

Carragher's versatility, like his colleague, Gerrard's, was his curse in his early years. Moved from pillar to post because others could not be. As he developed, particularly under Benitez, he became indispensable to Liverpool's cause. It is fashionable to deny Benitez has ever done anything right but he turned Carragher from a decent player into a superb one. Benitez nurtured him into one of the finest centre-backs in the game and the rock that he built his team around. For a little while in the mid-noughties, he could - and perhaps should - have had a greater presence in the England team.

In that dizzying, electrifying run to Istanbul, Carragher was immense. It is easy to remember Gerrard's impact and Hamann's presence but Carragher's performances against Juventus and Chelsea were just as important. His performance in Istanbul, after that nightmare first-half, was outrageous.

Like Gary Neville, a comparison that will stick in the craw at both ends of the East Lancs Road, he was very un-English. There is a feeling that here are two men who made it to the very top of English football - winning trophies, winning European trophies, gaining England caps - and did so by squeezing every single drop of talent and ability at their disposal.

Do better players exist? Of course. How many Englishmen could, at the end of their career, look in the mirror and know they gave it everything? Carragher could.
Far too many Englishmen - players who have bucketloads of talent - will loll about in the doldrums below what they could have achieved. The Mock Tudor Mansion bought, the Ferrari in the garage and a decent career. Who could ask for more? Carragher did. What made Carragher was more than what he could do on the pitch - it was his work-rate, his ethic, his approach. He should be an example to any young player. He was a fine player. He remains a better man.
There were probably more gifted right-backs than Neville and more gifted centre-backs than Carragher but few have that drive, desire and ability to ensure that they fill the unforgiving 90 minutes. These are men that you build an Empire around. It was, for me, to England's lasting regret that Carragher did not play a bigger role for them.

He will be enormously missed at Anfield. He was part of good Liverpool teams and sub-par Liverpool teams. He is  the beating heart of the club. He is the soul of the club. Here is a man that fans loved to watch but, moreover, loved. Liverpool fans have sung for many years ''We all dream of a team of Carraghers''. We did. We still do.

Thank you, Carra.



Anonymous said...

For fuck's sake, th last thing anyone wants is a team of hoofers!

dearieme said...

The clip: be fair, a decent thump up the pitch was turned into a fine pass by a wonderful goal from Torres.