“People keep asking me how I will feel – the answer will come after the game. I’m just looking forward to getting my tickets sorted and hopefully get a win, then I can look back and give you a better answer. I won’t be crying, put it that way.”
A one-club man, a passionate fan, and a dedicated footballer. James Lee Duncan Carragher epitomized Liverpool Football Club. He formed a bond between the supporters and the playing staff. A model professional who spent 23 years of his life devoted to one club, putting his body on the line, bleeding red throughout his career.
The above quote was taken from his interview with the BBC; it shows what an individual he is. A no nonsense man, no emotional stories, no self praise, but a humble supporter of the club. He gets into training every week, puts in a performance, a day’s rest, and it’s back to the training ground again.
A few season’s back Liverpool were away to West Brom, a day after they lost the title to United, 2nd spot was secure and there was nothing but pride to play for. A statement alien to Jamie, because pride is what he played for first. A mistake by Arbeloa nearly cost Liverpool a goal in this ‘meaningless’ game, he scuffed the Spaniard up by the neck and let him know what he really felt. Such was the commitment of this great servant of the club.
Liverpool supporters dream of every player having the same dedication as Jamie, “A team of Carraghers”, passionate individuals playing with all their heart. Effort and determination ran through the veins of Carra, week in and week out. His retirement will make way for younger talents to come through. They’ll probably be better footballers, but will they be better supporters? A man like Carragher is irreplaceable.
Sunday’s game against QPR is the last that we’ll see of Jamie on a football field, and indeed— the last image of Jamie in the red of Liverpool. It’s a special moment, a day no fan wanted to see, a day that marks the loss of a legend at the club. A mosaic is planned, memorabilia are abundant and tributes like this one have been pouring in. For Jamie, it’s just another football game. 90 minutes in the English Premier League, the objective is all 3 points, to keep a clean sheet, to play with pride and be worthy of displaying the Liverbird. Having scored just five goals in his 17 year professional career, fans will be hoping to see Carragher put the ball in the back of the net, one last (rare) time. An opportunity from the spot poses the best chance for Jamie to score.
“No chance. I wouldn’t take it. Imagine missing that and going for a pint after the game and they’d say you missed a penalty in your last game? I’m not really big for that. I’m not the type of person who likes the attention. I just don’t want it to overshadow the game. I just want this to go well and if it doesn’t, it’ll annoy me.”
Carragher has been an inconsistent footballer in terms of performance, in the last few seasons. Though he has largely been solid in the defensive third, his lack of pace and occasional drop in ability as an overall footballer has been questioned. Though his mental commitment has never been doubted. A vocal figure shouting instructions at his team-mates, attempting to get them on the same wavelength as himself. He was a mentor to younger footballers, both on the field and the training ground. His presence alone changed performances and dug out results.
Carragher experienced seven different managerial reigns winning 12 trophies. His time under Rafael Benitez brought out his best performances and coincided with the most successful period the club has accomplished. A spot in PFA Team of the Year in 2006 topped off his career. He won nearly every major tournament, undoubtedly the Champions League miracle in Istanbul being the most memorable. One trophy that eluded him though is the Premier League, the only regret the 35-year-old leaves the game with. “I wish I’d won the league. But we weren’t good enough, all of us. There’s no fancy reason or excuse, other teams in that particular season were better than us.” He captained the side on multiple occasions, much to the delight of the Scousers. He was a part of the club’s success, and shared the supporters’ grief in defeat. His efforts for justice of the Hillsborough families has been widely acknowledged; being a Scouser, he really felt what the victims and the city went through.
In an environment where loyalty is rare, Carragher has been a shining light. He’s never been close to leaving, the event has never come up. Carragher wasn’t just a footballer, he was a Liverpool Football Club player, period. Both were meant for each other, he existed to provide his services for the club. The prospect of doing so for any other club was unthinkable for him. Managers realised his importance to the team and the Anfield faithful.
He formed a rock-solid partnership with current Leverkusen manager, Sami Hyypia; while Gerrard and him have always been the most senior players in the squad for the last decade or so. Supporters have had to deal with the lack of success on the clubs’ part as they struggle to reclaim the glory days. The ups and downs of the club have been an epitome of Jamie’s career.
The last two seasons have seen Carragher drop down in the pecking order, as the conventional defender had to make way for the younger generation. A man like Carragher wants to play week in and week out, his desire to feature despite his age is commendable. “I can go out playing, which is something I’d prefer rather than maybe stay another year and be in the stand, on the bench or wherever it may be”.
After a brief period playing second-fiddle, Carragher has found himself earning a regular starting berth, rolling back the years and putting in solid performances like the good old days. But in order for the club to move forward, younger defenders are being scouted. Carragher has to vacate his place in the side, which would mean more bench-warming. And that is something Jamie doesn’t want to experience, he wants to feature in each and every game. Rodgers, his fellow team-mates and fans alike have wished for Carragher to stay on, maybe for just one more season. But fighting for a spot in the first team means further reduced opportunities for younger players, how does the club move forward then? Evolution is vital, it’s what allowed Carragher to make his way into the team, he now has to pave way for more to come in.
Legends in the past, across various sporting fields, have overstayed their welcome (and ability). The latter part of their career has thus been plagued with scornful disrepute. Carragher understands that the time is right to move on, to leave with pleasant memories and deserved praise. To leave with a career worth experiencing. As Sir Alex Ferguson stated: “He’s a fantastic example for any young lad that wants to play the game. He’s been a really, really good professional.” That’s the legacy he’s leaving behind, of a model professional who set an example for youngsters to follow.
Sunday marks the end of an era, a stalwart in Liverpool’s back four will leave the club forever, leaving behind an exemplar symbol to duplicate. As the club attempts to move forward, it’s past has to be overcome and all it’s memories. It will be a painful goodbye for all the supporters, but Carragher will remain the no-nonsense solid figure that we all know.