By Ollie Irish
‘We all dream of a team of Carraghers,’ the Kop roars, though perhaps not quite as much as they did a few seasons ago, when Jamie Carragher was the most consistent English centre-back around. Hmm, you’d have to say a team of Carraghers might be lacking a little pace and creativity.
Carra’s testimonial game takes place tomorrow at Anfield, when a Liverpool XI take on an Everton XI, with proceeds going to Jamie’s 23 Foundation.
Long-time friend and team-mate Steven Gerrard, who will play a cameo role on Saturday, had this to say about Carragher:
“You tend to associate players these days moving around a lot but Carra is, in many ways, a one-off and nobody deserves to celebrate their career more. He has put so much effort in to his career, has shown so much desire and sweated blood for the club.
“It’s great I’m going to have chance to celebrate with him. He’s been a big influence on me ever since I arrived at Melwood on day one.
“We come from similar backgrounds, so it was easy bouncing ideas off each other and I’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for him as a player and person.”
Gerrard added in the Liverpool Echo: “Every successful team needs a player like Carra… What is important is how you come through it and Carra has shown consistently in recent years he has been one of the best defenders in the world.
“He is a brilliant organiser and leads by example. He deserves to be called a Liverpool great.”
Which got me thinking:
a) Can you actually sweat blood?
b) Does Carragher deserve to be considered an authentic Liverpool legend, up there with true greats like Kenny Dalglish and Billy Liddell?
Carra playing for Liverpool in 1997
There’s no doubting Carra’s commitment to Liverpool the club and Liverpool the city – and yes, I know he once supported Everton, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. He is the archetypal one-club man (he signed for Liverpool back in 1996), proud of his roots and completely qualified to kiss his badge without looking like insincere.
All well and good, but to be classed as a ‘great’ or a ‘legend’, you also need to be able to play a bit. Well, a lot. And for quite a long time, Carragher was viewed as a journeyman defender, not good enough for England and only good enough for Liverpool’s bench. Then something seemed to click and he kicked on – or maybe he just matured. As I mentioned, between 2004-2007, he routinely performed heroics at the back for Liverpool, particularly – as I recall – in Europe. He put his body on the line, and although he often looked spent after 30 minutes (he’s 32 now but looks older), he somehow kept going. Now that’s my kind of team-mate. As a fan, that’s everyone’s kind of player.
As a Spurs fan, of course I’m not fully qualified to pass judgment on Carra’s legend credentials. I’ll leave that to Liverpool fans. But from afar, I think he deserves his place in the Anfield Hall of Fame, because he’s the player who proves that, in a team sport, perspiration matters as much as inspiration.