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Carragher, Jamie

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JAMIE CARRAGHER PROFILE

 

by Paul Natton

 

 

Date of Birth - 28/01/78

Nationality - Scouse

Position - Defender

Squad Number - 23

Cost - Nothing

Club Hons (Lpool) - FA Youth Cup 1996, League Cup 2001, 2003, FA Cup 2001, 2006, UEFA Cup 2001, European Super Cup 2001, 2005, Champions League 2005

Club Hons (Other) - None

Intnl Hons - England Caps

Other Clubs - You must be joking

 

Jamie Carragher’s first taste of success with Liverpool came in the FA Youth Cup in 1996 when he was part of the side that won the trophy. Famously a boyhood Blue, some may have thought that that win, and his subsequent signing of a professional deal with Liverpool, would leave him conflicted in his loyalties. Far from it, though. Carra fully turned from the dark side many years ago and now considers himself a Red, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the club’s history, as well as bringing up his own children as Liverpool fans.

 

As a child, he actually did return briefly to Everton, but, in his own words, quickly realised he’d made a big mistake and returned “home”. Indeed his Red credentials could not have been more clearly proven than when he replied incredulously to a query from a Sky Muppet about leaving Liverpool for a bigger club with the words, “Bigger than Liverpool? I’m not having that. Who’s bigger than Liverpool?”

 

His first professional appearance for the club came in the semi-final of the league cup against Boro when he came on as a sub. His league debut against Villa quickly followed and he actually scored a rare goal in front of The Kop. It could be lazily suggested that that moment was the start of an instant love affair between the fans and Carra. However, it took a long time for him to be fully appreciated. Despite early appearances up front and in midfield, Carra has always been a defender by vocation. His game is based around his mental strengths of confidence, concentration, judgement and reading of the game, as opposed to outrageous talent. However, it should not be inferred that he lacks skill.

 

He is a good passer of the ball and is more than capable of beating a man going forward. It’s just that he doesn’t really see that as his job. Carra is much happier doing the simple things consistently well because he knows that’s the safest option, defensively speaking. It’s probably this attitude that initially left some fans with doubts about him as a player – especially when deployed as a fullback on either flank in a cautious side under Gerard Houllier. The fans’ frustrations with our lack of adventure sometimes manifested itself in criticism of Carra’s lack of movement forward. The fact that this was clearly a tactical policy didn’t seem to occur to some.

 

However, despite getting the player of the year award in Roy Evans’ final season, when he played centre half, his true talents weren’t fully recognised until Rafael Benitez installed him permanently in the position after Houllier had dabbled with him there in the last few months of his tenure.

 

It is in these last three years under Benitez that Carra has finally become recognised for what he is: one of the best defenders in the league. In fact, there isn’t a better pure defender than him around. When this fact is set against the context of his fantastic communication and leadership skills on the pitch, as well as his unbelievable personal commitment to both club and team, it’s no surprise to hear his “Team of Carraghers” song ringing around Anfield with such passion every week.

 

It has been argued that he is vulnerable to the best players at the highest level – especially when confronted by genuine pace. However, he has shown on many occasions that he can cope with the best, combining his good pace over short distances with his deceptive upper body strength and excellent positioning. Furthermore, his intelligent reading of games and situations also adds to his armoury. It’s no surprise that Rafa considers him one of his most important players; an ever-present in these days of ever-changing first team line-ups.

 

Carra’s greatest moment for Liverpool was undoubtedly in Istanbul when he repelled wave after wave of late Milan attacks, despite suffering from chronic and agonising cramps in both sides of his groin. Sheer force of will drove him on when lesser players and lesser men would have faltered or given up. His reward was the greatest prize in club football, and who could begrudge him it? In this age of player power when money seems to be the sole motivation of most, Jamie Carragher is the epitome of the one-club man; a throw back to a bygone era when passion, commitment and values really meant something.

 

With his fantastic fitness record he hopefully has many more years and trophies ahead of him in the Liverpool first team. However, when the time comes to retire from playing, if ever there was a man equipped to switch career from pitch to manager’s office, it’s Carra. Who knows what the future holds, but don’t be surprised if his greatest days at Liverpool are still to come.

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