Gerrard's Tribute To Carra

Julian Finney

After rattling the post with a thunderous drive yesterday, during his swansong, Jamie Carragher joked that he was only just getting the hang of shooting. His old mucker Steven Gerrard reckoned the explanation was simpler -- Carra had half-inched the captain's boots!

"And the danger is that in this move towards new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness."

Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Jamie Carragher, the footballer, and began the hopefully short wait for the beginning of his career as a coach at Liverpool Football Club. It was a poignant occasion and I can't have been the only grown man to become a touch emotional when confronted by the scenes of affection towards Bootle's finest. You will understand if your humble scrivener eschews any overly mawkish or cloying retrospectives here. It's not the Carragher way and my unrestrained affection and sorrow might come over as a touch unseemly.

The stunning mosaics, the guard of honour, the kids and families, the speech by Carragher himself and the very impressive and genuine reaction of the fans, all made the day a bittersweet one. These were beautiful, touching and winningly Scouse but all were equally tinged with a melancholic dolour that has sat heavily in the heart. Irritatingly, I missed some of the proceedings as I got something in my eye, whilst peeling onions in a smoky room.

Better then, to treat this as just another post-match reflection piece, in which our captain is playfully kind about his old mate and we reflect on the warmth between the two men and the mutual respect they always display. It's the easiest way to avoid heartbreaking anguish at the loss of the defensive colossus. Pleasingly, Gerrard felt the same and when interviewed by LFCtv during the lap of honour, he began by ribbing his old mate about his shooting prowess.

"I think he lent my boots because I'm not playing; either my boots or one of the lads'," joked the captain, after Anfield witnessed Carragher unleash a perfectly flighted screamer from distance. "We haven't seen that for twenty years, have we? It would have been a fitting point for him to finish -- he scored on his debut -- and what an effort. His performance today, from start to finish, was rock-solid again, as it has been since January when he came back into the team. He's calling it a day, I'm sure he could go on for a couple of years but he thinks the time is right and we need to respect that."

Gerrard, though, could not disguise his sadness at the conclusion of his friend's playing career. As he spoke further, it was clear that Carragher's absence would have a profound effect on him personally.

"I certainly share the emotion with the supporters. The club have put on a fantastic show for Jamie today and the guard of honour was emotional because you know it's going to be the last time we'll ever see him perform. So it's a sad day but Jamie is walking back with a smile on his face. He has been a fantastic ambassador in playing for this club and it's going to be virtually impossible for the manager to replace him.

"It's going to be difficult for me because I sit next to him on the bus, he's the first person I look for in the dressing room. I'm quite close to Jamie, both on and off the pitch. It will be strange, it will be tough at times but it happens to us all one day -- it will be me in a few years calling it a day. We just need to look back and enjoy the memories he has given us."

Well, that's just about the most gut-wrenchingly poignant tribute of all -- and the captain managed to remind us that the same heartbreak is lying in wait for us when he retires. You'll forgive me if I'm less than verbose in response. You see, this room has filled with smoke again and someone has started peeling onions right next to me.

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