After 16 years and 723 appearances the legend of the Kop Jamie Carragher has announced his decision to hang up his standard, regulation, black football boots at the end of the season.
He’s never been the kind of player who sees any benefit in the gregarious yellow and pink affairs you see nowadays. Carragher never held any substance in boots that weren’t the standard black, so determined was his view that ‘real’ footballers wore black boots that he has, in the past, sent back boots from his sponsors that he felt were too ‘showy’.
It’s an anecdote that speaks volumes about the man and footballer Carragher was. A man who was true to the roots of the sport he adored and respected enormously by his colleagues for doing so.
Out of the 723 appearances Carragher has made for Liverpool so far, there’s one game that sticks in my memory and will reside there for the rest of my life. It is a match that is steeped in Liverpudlian legend and will live long in the mind of any fan fortunate to be alive to see it. The 2005 Champions League final.
Everyone knows how this story goes. Three nil down at half time and facing another 45 minutes against Kaka, Shevchenko, Maldini, Crespo, Stam and Cafu. Three goals later and Liverpool were encroaching upon the biggest upset in Champions League history. Steven Gerrard was the impetus behind that comeback, but Jamie Carragher was its beating heart. In the name of the cause Carragher put his body on the line for Liverpool that night.
At the end of the scheduled 90 minutes Carragher was in pieces, going down with cramp and barely able to walk. But he dragged himself back onto the pitch and never has a player given so much in the red shirt. The next half an hour saw him throw himself at the Milan players and by sheer force of determination; Carragher would not let anyone past. He has long been the sweating, shouting figure marshalling Liverpool’s defence, face screwed up with a mixture of frustration, anger and determination.
When Jerzy Dudek saved Shevchenko’s much maligned penalty, Carragher ran straight towards the outnumbered Liverpool fans whose voices had been the fuel that kept Liverpool’s fire burning that whole fateful night.
That’s what Carragher will be remembered for, his unswerving passion and dedication to the fans. He never took them for granted, and he never took his job for granted. Carragher is the last of a dying breed of footballer, a man who puts the team first above anything and anybody else. So much so that on the pitch, his frustrations with his teammates often got the better of him.
But Carragher backed up that passion by being an exceptional centre back, strong, border-line tackles very much became his signature. But he was also one of those footballers who read the game perfectly, he had a sixth sense when it came to assessing matters in the penalty area. The boy from Bootle, one of the last true links to Liverpool’s golden generation, proved himself at the very pinnacle of the sport.
His retirement statement reflected his career, after a heartfelt appreciation of Liverpool as a club and his time there he stated ‘there are many memories I want to share and people to thank, but now is not the time for that. I won’t be making any further comment on this decision until the end of the season’.
The reason behind this decision and the lack of fanfare over his retirement in general is because, in Carragher’s words, Liverpool’s ‘focus and concentration should be achieving the best possible finish in the league this season’. The club before the man even at the bitter end.
In the 2006 FA Cup final Carragher scored an own goal. It’s every defenders worst nightmare, but Carragher felt it more acutely than any other player, and it showed on his face. The sheer grief at having almost cost Liverpool the FA Cup nearly brought the man to his knees. The club before anything else, always the club first, always Liverpool first…always.
There are so many memories of the man who will go down as one of Liverpool’s greatest players, the heartbeat of the club alongside the captain he has stood by for close to a decade. Carragher bleeds passion for Liverpool Football Club. In the very core of his being lies two contrasting people, one is a family man and the other is a selfless warrior.
723 appearances and counting. There’s one act left to honour the man who has made a career out of being an old school, unfussy and unaffected footballer – to retire the number 23. It would be an almighty gesture to let the man who has never been in the limelight to have this last moment of respect from the club he has faithfully served for 16 years. I will appreciate and admire every last moment that Carragher has in a Liverpool shirt, we only have a few months left of Jamie Carragher, let’s not take it for granted.
Until Steven Gerrard retires, and even maybe when he does, Jamie Carragher is for me, Liverpool’s greatest.
As the Kop sing…we all dream of a team of Carragher’s.