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Jamie Carragher – The Last Of A Few Good Men

With Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher retiring at the end of the season, writer Shane Clancy looks back over his distinguished career and recalls some highlights

Jamie Carragher

‘I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to finishing, that would be wrong, but I wouldn’t say I’m terrified about it either.  When it does finish I can look back and say, “That was brilliant, that was great.”  But being a local lad playing for Liverpool is intense.  And it’s not just on match days, it’s every single day.  But that’s because of the club you play for and that’s the price of the ticket, that’s what every player wants.’

The words of Jamie Carragher, speaking to the Daily Mail in September 2012.  Liverpool’s then thirty-four year old centre-half was discussing his retirement plans in the national media for the first time.

‘To be honest, I’ve got a year to go,’ he says.  ‘I don’t want to think about it too much — even though I do think about it a lot.  It might be my last year in football.  I just want to enjoy it as much as possible.’

True to his word, Carragher announced his retirement from professional football in February of this year.  Putting the club first as always Carragher said “I’m making this announcement because I don’t want the manager to be answering questions when I’ve already decided what I am going to do.” He continued.

A childhood Evertonian, Carragher joined Liverpool’s youth system at nine years of age.  He was part of Liverpool’s FA Youth Cup winning squad in 1996, along with his friend Michael Owen.  Jamie signed his first professional contract with Liverpool that October under the guidance of Roy Evans.  He made his debut in early 1997 and actually scored on his full debut at Anfield in a 3-0 win against Aston Villa.

Carragher was used in his early years as a versatile defender.  Whether it was Roy Evans or Gerard Houllier at the helm, they knew that this was a professional footballer with the perfect attitude.  It did not matter if Carragher was playing at centre-half, full-back or defensive midfielder, he would always give his absolute best.  He fitted in perfectly to Gerard Houllier’s disciplined approach at the turn of the millennium, playing a pivotal role in the famous treble-winning side of 2001.

Undoubtedly Jamie’s finest night in a red shirt came in Istanbul in May 2005.  Rafael Benitez’s men had been taken apart in the first-half by the magic of Kaka and Crespo.  However, the reds produced one of the most memorable comebacks in European football with Carragher at the heart of it.  By this stage of his career, under the tactical nous of the Spanish gaffer, he had nailed down his place as a first choice centre-half, alongside Sami Hyypia.  No Liverpool fan will forget the images of Carragher battling against cramp that night, his heart seemingly forcing his legs to continue with such incredible intensity.  Football fans everywhere must have been pointing out this inspirational performance to their children as they watched, “this is the attitude you need to have son.”  No-one deserved more to get their hands on the trophy than Jamie did that night.

In 2009 Liverpool were the closest they have ever been to winning the Premier League title.  Losing only twice all season, they eventually succumbed to Manchester United in the end.  Carragher had been an ever-present in the league, playing fifty-four matches in total that season in all competitions.  At thirty-one Jamie must have known that this could be the closest he would ever be to winning the league, and it was.  The following season the reds fell to a poor seventh position with Benitez parting company in the summer, unable to build any kind of working relationship with the American owners.

At this stage Liverpool Football Club was in the hands of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.  Carragher shared his thoughts on their ownership of his beloved reds in Carra – My Autobiography.

“For richer or poorer, we’d sold Liverpool to two ruthless businessmen who saw us as a money-making opportunity.”

“They didn’t buy Liverpool as an act of charity; they weren’t intent on throwing away all the millions they’d earned over 50 years… They wanted to buy us because the planned stadium offered a chance to generate tons of cash and increase the value of the club.

“Think how many world-class players that £200million could have brought to the club. Instead if Gillett and Hicks did sell, they or their banks would make a huge profit.

“I felt ill thinking about it.”

How difficult it must have been for Carragher to watch his club throw away everything they had built together under Rafael Benitez.  In what should have been the peak years of his career as a centre-half, he had to cope with Liverpool going through arguably their most difficult period of transition since Gerard Houllier took over in 1998.

Along came Kenny Dalglish in January 2011 after a disastrous few months under Roy Hodgson.  Kenny, the man in charge when Carragher signed as a youngster in 1990, would have been an idol in Jamie’s eyes.  He helped Dalglish to win his only silverware during his second term as Liverpool boss in February 2012.  Carragher came on as an 86th minute substitute for Daniel Agger against Championship side Cardiff City.  He added some much needed experience to the wavering reds during extra-time and they went on to win the penalty shoot-out.  This would be his last time to grace the Wembley turf as a red; he was an unused substitute in the FA Cup Final defeat to Chelsea three months later.

Carragher has enjoyed a mini-revival of late, recalled to partner Agger in the centre of a shaky back-four under new boss Brendan Rodgers.  He has been quick to quash any suggestions however that this will cause him to rethink his decision.  Jamie will not have come by his decision easily or without much thought.  All football fans everywhere can do is enjoy the remaining weeks of this red legend’s career – truly the last of a few good men.

What is your favourite memory of Jamie Carragher?  Get involved and have your say in the comments section below.

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