07 February 2013

On Jamie Carragher

I've been struggling to come up with a way to adequately memorialize Jamie Carragher's just-announced impending retirement.

Do I cite statistics? Maybe the fact he's made more Liverpool appearances than any player who's turned out for the club except Ian Callaghan, has made more European appearances than any other Liverpool player. That with just four more appearances, he'll reach 500 in the Premier League, something that just seven players have done (soon to be eight when Scholes makes three more). And that only Ryan Giggs, and soon, Paul Scholes, are the others to do it with a single club. That's he's been a first-team player for the club for the last 17 seasons, making his Liverpool debut when Raheem Sterling was barely two years old.

Should I try to make a highlight video, featuring Cardiff, Dortmund, Turin, Stamford Bridge, Istanbul, Camp Nou et al? Last ditch tackle after last ditch tackle, the ubiquitous cliché that he put his body on the line for Liverpool every time he donned the shirt. Maybe add clips of all five of his goals for the club? And, yes, it's five, because no one's taking his winner at Middlesbrough in 2008 off him, no matter what the Premier League's records say.

How about a list of his winners' medals? Beginning with an FA Youth Cup before moving onto one Champions League, one UEFA Cup, two FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields, and two UEFA Super Cups. We all know the one gaping chasm in the man's accolades, same as Gerrard, and it's an utter shame he'll never have the chance to remedy that void.

None of those suffice, and not because I'm lazy or crap at editing videos (although both may have something to do with it). More because they don't do the man's career justice.

Jamie Carragher has been Liverpool for the last 16 years, along with Gerrard, the last holdover from a different era. He may not have become a star until Benitez shifted him to center-back in 2004-05, but he's always represented the much-needed link to the local community, a throwback footballer capable of playing in any era, and a man who truly would do anything in his power to win a match.

As many, many others have noted, Carragher was never the quickest, tallest, stronger, or best on the ball. He's arguably never reached the heights hit since Hyypia retired. None the less, for three or four years under Benitez, his name came up every time the best center-backs in the world were discussed, and rightfully so. And despite the decline of his powers, it's no coincidence that first Kelly, then Flanagan, and then Wisdom have looked better full-backs when paired with Carragher over the last few seasons. He remains a organizer above all else, having seen it all and done it all before, still capable of passing that knowledge onto the next generation.

That he's almost wholly changed his style of play under Rodgers, doing exactly what the manager wants and currently Liverpool's most accurate passer in both the Premiership and Europa League, to the point where he's forced an underperforming Martin Skrtel out of the side, is one of his more impressive achievements in recent seasons. But that also fits perfectly into the frequently-noted anecdote that he's a football anorak, fully subsumed in the game, which will translate into whatever his next career is: coach, manager, pundit. I feel safe in asserting that he'll succeed at any of them.

Last season, he was seemingly the defender no one wanted to see, keeping Coates from reaching his potential. This season? He's the only defender have appeared in a league match but not made a defensive error (from before Norwich but still applicable). Yes, I'm well aware he's made fewer appearances than all but Kelly and Coates; it's still an impressive statistic. His percentage of successful tackles this season is higher than in any of the previous three, his minutes-per-tackle rate higher than the previous two.

That he's announced his retirement now, unwilling to let speculation loom over the rest of the season, declaring his impending exit with a minimum of fuss and confirming he'll remain a one-club man for the duration of his career, fits Jamie Carragher perfectly. He is, and will always be, Liverpool to the core.

Wait, one highlight video? Still my favorite, even if it's more than five years old? Oh, go one then...

1 comment:

Jay said...

This is an excellent tribute, Nate. It's a word that gets tossed around a bit haphazardly these days, but Carra really is an LFC legend. That he is leaving us after a year in which he's been a bit of a renaissance man is bittersweet, but probably a fitting end to an incredible career.