Through Gritted Teeth #22: Jamie Carragher

by Hayden Shaw

As a Manchester United fan I should probably have nothing but hatred and contempt for Jamie Carragher. Certainly not admiration and grudging respect then, in fact in the wrong Manchester pubs such an admission could cause me some serious respiratory problems, and not because I was laughing too hard at a witty put down. The fact that Jamie Carragher is the top English scorer AGAINST Liverpool is brilliant pub ammo, the fact that he has a silly voice and none of the foreign players can understand a word he says is kind of amusing and the fact that he was an Everton fan to the point that he has an Everton tattoo makes it all the more strange that he is a Liverpool legend.

But — regardless of some of the clumsy own goals and occasionally poor positioning — he really is. Despite the Igor Biscan, Champions League winner anomaly it’s fair to say that nobody who’s rubbish at football makes over 600 appearances for a club like Liverpool. The scattering of 4 League goals FOR them in 15 years obviously helps but with Carragher it’s not about stats, it’s about attitude.

How many fans can say that one of their players genuinely cares as much about their club as they do? In Carragher’s case he cares even more than most. For him it’s far from being just a job, it’s what he lives and breathes for. His professionalism and his loyalty and commitment to his club are incredible and whilst I’ve been lucky enough to see a few one club men at United, Carragher is in that same mold. In fact, Carragher and Neville could have been made from the very same mould, and had they been born in opposite cities I have no doubt that I’d have a Carragher shirt and a grudging respect for Gary Neville, rather than the other way around.

When Roy Hodgson was at Anfield, Carragher was asked what he thought of the manager and replied:

The manager is the boss and we should be trying to impress him, not the other way around.

It wasn’t enough to save Hodgson his job, which was doomed to failure — his style just didn’t fit — but it sum Carragher up. No matter who the manager, what the situation, you always feel like he’ll be trying, doing anything he can to keep his place. As with Neville, Carragher isn’t the most talented player to represent his club or country, but he has a determination about him, that’s why when his positioning lets him down he still makes that recovery tackle time and again. That determination is what made him a central figure for one of the Biggest Clubs in the World and earned him 38 caps for the Nation who not only won a World Cup but also Invented Football.

His caps for England have mostly been earned in a rather John O’Shea fashion, accumulating call ups at left back, right back and centre back, a versatility that has been utilised for his club on numerous occasions as well. When a player gets injured, Carragher slots in. Of course sometimes that injury is caused by Carragher himself, certainly in the case of Rigobert Song in training anyway. Song mocked Carragher for the quality of his defending. Shortly afterwards he was limping.

Song walked on to the training pitch with a smile on his face. He was limping off it with a grimace an hour later. The first chance I got, I did him. Never have I hunted down a 50–50 tackle with greater appetite. ‘You’re not fucking laughing now, are you, you soft cunt?’ I said as he hobbled away.

You feel that history will always judge Carragher a little harshly for having never won a League title despite playing for the team that until last season held the record number of League wins. That Liverpool have such an illustrious history is source of great pride for Carragher, but you also feel, a great burden. Every time he steps out at Anfield you can tell that he feels like he has something massive to live up to. He wants to win. You can see how much defeat hurts him. In a perverse way I used to enjoy it, seeing Liverpool stumble and fail. If they start to challenge again, then when they slip up away at a relegation struggler I will probably still share a few high fives, if he scores another own goal, I’ll almost certainly laugh, but afterwards, I’ll always add “I’d love it if every player tried that hard”.

I guess for me this video sums up everything I like about Carragher. He’s injured himself trying to foul Peter Crouch. Then, whilst he should be getting taken away by medical staff to sort out his clearly dislocated and probably extremely painful shoulder, all he can worry about is shouting, at a man who looks like he might have people buried in his garden, to hurry up because he doesn’t want his team down to 10 men any longer than they have to be.

I don’t think I’ve always felt this way about Carragher, when I was younger and loved just sliding about in the mud I thought he made defending look like an art form, until I realised that the really great defenders barely bothered sliding, they just got themselves into the right place so they didn’t have to. It was around that time that I had a pretty big resentment towards Liverpool and their players, with the exception of those on England duty anyway. Anyway, you can guarantee that, like Sir Alex with his praise of Arsène Wenger, the second I feel like Liverpool are becoming a genuine threat again, I’ll stop the genuine praise and start the bitching. But until then, hats off to you Jamie Carragher, you dirty bastard.

Hayden is the proprietor of One Stepover Too Many, a skipping/morris dancing/football blog, and is one of the prime movers behind the mysterious Project Swordfish. Bother him on Twitter: @elhaydo.

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