Every team should wish for a Jamie Carragher. Even the most ardent Manchester United or Everton fans would have to admit Carragher’s virtues. This week saw him play his testimonial at Anfield, and with 636 appearances and counting for his club, he is amongst the most loyal servants in the Premier League.
In a squad that’s has seen one of the highest turnover of players, Carragher has been one of the mainstays. His appetite for the game, even still after 14 years, as well as his consistency of performance, have meant that he has offered a beacon of reassurance to whichever manager he has played under. When injuries piled up during the build up to South Africa, Carragher was called up to offer the experience and versatility required for international tournaments.
In a profession filled with sound bites, over-controlled PR events and an on-going regurgitation of clichés and rhetoric, Carragher is one of the few willing communicators. In interviews he conducts himself with sincerity, while still managing to be both analytical and humorous – he would be the first to remind us of the statistic that he has scored more goals against Liverpool than any other player in Premiership history.
Essentially what Carragher offers fans and viewers alike, is a refreshing antidote to petty squabbles, play-acting and all the hiding away from challenges and battles that modern day professionals can be susceptible to. Liverpool fans and players know exactly what they will get from Carragher in every performance, and opponents will rarely relish coming up against him.
Ninth in the all-time Premier League list of appearances puts him in the company of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer, good company indeed. And at 32, there is still at least two or three years to add to that record. It is inconceivable to imagine Carragher leaving Anfield to play for any other club, and next season (assuming he stays relatively injury free) he is likely to rack up 500 Premier League appearances for Liverpool (we’ll keep the four goals to ourselves).
Carragher has played more European games (136) for Liverpool than any other player and was an integral piece of the team that brought one of Liverpool’s (and maybe British football’s) finest moments on the continental stage, although 1999 was pretty impressive as well.
At the end of the 2008/09 season, in a match against WBA, Carragher had to be pulled away after rowing with his then teammate Alvaro Arbeloa. Rafa Benitez later revealed that it had started because Carragher was so incensed with his full-back’s tracking back, and the possible jeopardy it had to Pepe Riena’s clean sheet and fourth Golden Glove running. Episodes such as this one, as well as in his phone-in on live radio after announcing his international retirement have etched Carragher’s name into the minds of football fans across the breadth of the country.
As good as Carragher has been, he won’t be around for much longer and the Premier League will be a bleaker place without him. I personally would love to see him as a pundit because of the opinions he expresses, but somehow I think he will leave the limelight to someone else. If anyone is still unsure, Jamie Carragher is not a bottler.
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