Liverpool's Jamie Carragher: The Last Of The Old School
I can't not talk about Jamie Carragher now, can I?
I'll leave it to others to eulogise his playing career, to talk of the heroics of Istanbul, to speak of the man who put a cramp riddled body on the line again and again and again to hold onto a comeback that had been so hard fought, the man who was the inspiration for Dudek's goal line antics, the man who would play anywhere for his club, who at 35 years of age is still proving to be the best central defender at the club. Others can talk about the fact that his organisational skills hold our back line together so often, that he guides younger players through games. That his reading of the game is excellent, that he is a far better player than he has ever been given credit for. That he leads. That his entire career on the pitch has been about leading.
(See what I did there? Said I wouldn't talk about it, then did anyway?)
What I really want to say about Jamie Carragher is this:
On the day that Carra retires football will have changed. Forever and irrevocably.
Jamie Carragher is the last of his line. He's the old school exemplified. And it's not even the fact that in an increasingly mercenary, disloyal, badge kissing without meaning, sporting world his career has been spent at one club. From the age of nine to now, 26 years at one club. It's the fact that he understands. It's the fact that he is a fan on the pitch.
Yes, he was an Evertonian growing up but any trace of that vanished long ago; he is playing for, has always played for the club he supports. He is us on the pitch. He is the unfulfilled dreams we had as children that one day we could pull on the shirt that we wore in the park with our mates. The actual shirt. He is that achievement made real, and the reason we dream of a team of Carraghers isn't the same reason that Manchester United fans dreamt of a team of Georgie Bests; it isn't for the glitz and the glamour and the on field flair, it's for the caring, the passion, the pride.
And in a world where football has devolved into coverage of Brand Beckham in artfully posed black and white naked photos, into comic Mario Balotelli moments where we can laugh at his hilarious antics as he wastes his talent piece by piece, where we know the names of the girlfriends and wives of every bit part player in the Premiership, think of this:
What's Jamie Carragher's wife's name?
What does she look like?
What car does Carragher drive?
Where does he socialise?
You know none of these things. Because they're not important to him. Obviously he will be a very rich man but he's never been about living the lifestyle.
One thing that all Liverpudlians know though is this; Philly. Jamie's dad's name is Philly. And we know this because he's a fan. Because he follows his son. Everywhere. Because, occasionally, he can forget that his son is famous and can act like every other fan. Because this is the life that Jamie was brought up to believe in, to never forget who he was or where he came from. To know that no matter what he does he is no better a person than those who watch from the stands. They could be him and he could be them.
And that is why the ambassador for the people's republic of Bootle will never be replaced.
There is talk in many quarters that Liverpool should retire his shirt. That nobody should ever wear the 23 again. I could not agree less. The number 7 wasn't retired with Dalglish and although there have been some embarrassing figures to carry it (Paul Stewart anyone?) Suarez now wears it with distinction. Somewhere on a playing field in Bootle, or Netherley or Huyton or Kirkby there is a kid who knows that Jamie Carragher is a man to look up to. A kid who wants that shirt.
Give them a chance to earn it. Give them the chance to prove that there can be more Jamie Carraghers. God knows we need them.
This article was originally published on the author's mumblingintothevoid blog.