With Liverpool's standing in the final table settled while already relegated QPR heads to town, there's really only one major draw for fans waiting on the final game of the season: Jamie Carragher. For those fans, Sunday will mark the defender's 737th and final appearance for the club he has spent his entire career at—a career spanning 17 seasons now.
For a not insignificant portion of the club's support, there will be few—and at times even no—distinct memories of Liverpool from a time when Jamie Carragher wasn't part of the defence. So we come to, cliched though the words may seem, the end of an era, and with it no shortage of recollection and reflection, with the player today focusing on the manner in which he revealed his plans to retire a few short months ago.
"After the Norwich game a lot was made about me being back in the side," said Carragher of the moment he realised he would have to go public with his decision. "The manager had spoken about me being vocal at the back and people were questioning him about my future. They were saying ‘well, his contract runs out in a few months so what are you going to do about it?’
"I didn’t want that dragging on. I’ve seen that happen at other clubs—like the Frank Lampard situation at Chelsea. I didn’t want it to look like there was a problem between me and the club. Whether they wanted to give me a new deal or not, or whether I wanted to stay on or not, I didn’t want to get involved in all that.
"The deal with Sky Sports to do TV work was there and I didn’t want it to leak out that I was joining them. I wanted to tell people myself. I was going to announce it but then I realised there were two big games coming up against Arsenal and Man City. I decided to wait until after them and it worked out perfectly for me. I did quite well in those two games and it was the right time for it to come out."
Carragher, though, had settled on retiring long before Liverpool hammered Norwich 5-0 towards the end of January. With the defender falling behind Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel during the 2011-12 season, he headed into last summer strongly considering it, and when the defensive duo both signed new contracts in response to speculation linking them away from the club, he knew it was time—he knew 2012-13 would be his final season.
"I [knew I] wasn’t going to be first choice," he explained. "The new manager was always going to go with [Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel], but I saw the Carling Cup and the UEFA Cup as a way to get games in. But in the second half of the season I was worried. I was looking and thinking ‘where am I going to get games here?'
Feeling as though he wouldn't see the pitch regularly for the remainder of the season, Carragher toyed with pushing up his retirement and calling it a day before the season had ended. He had come to grips with seeing limited action, but with even that limited action set to disappear he was troubled by the thought he might spend the next five months on the bench before ending his career with a whimper.
"Around Christmas I spoke to the manager about calling it a day," he admitted. "I knew he would go stronger in the UEFA Cup the further we went so I wouldn’t have those games and we were out of the Carling Cup. We had a chat about it. Brendan has never tried to change my mind. He has always respected my thoughts as I know myself and my body better than anyone. I decided to keep going and I’m glad I did.
"After a couple of bad results, I think the manager felt, ‘You know what, he trains well every day and has done well in the cup games he’s played so he deserves a go in the league.' I never knocked on his door. The manager will tell you that. I just trained and played games when I was needed.
"I think the attitude I showed then and the way I conducted myself has got me the rewards of playing in recent months."