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Starting to Say Goodbye to Jamie Carragher

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Today's announcement leaves a few short months before Jamie Carragher's playing career comes to a close, meaning he'll have started and finished his time as a professional footballer in a Liverpool shirt.

Ian MacNicol

There won't be many highfalutin video compilations set to overly sentimental acoustic jams come May, at least not as many as we'll probably get when Steven Gerrard retires or Luis Suarez moves to Real Madrid for £985m next summer. Central defenders are at a disadvantage anyway, often cementing their place in the YouTube pantheon only after elbowing a former teammate in the face or as a transfer target for myriad teams that supporters are all too happy to welcome them to even though the transfer never actually, you know, happens.

That doesn't matter much with Jamie Carragher, though, who today announced that this season will be his last. That's partly because some forward-thinking video editor's already got you covered in the melodramatic video compilation department, and partly because Carragher's not necessarily the type of player whose career really warrants eastern European techno beats and/or dazzling video effects.

That's not to say his body of work isn't deserving; few defenders in the English game can claim the status of Jamie Carragher at a club level, and few have displayed the type of unerring loyalty to their club as he has over the past fifteen seasons. More than 700 appearances in the Liverpool first-team, winner of nearly every possible medal at the club level, and, in what's now been re-cast as a farewell season, regular appearances in both cup and league competition.

No player's without fault or folly, and it hasn't always been easy or enjoyable with Jamie Carragher. There's the shouting and the own goals and the talk of his role in the uncomfortable ousting of Rafa Benitez, the fading form that's marred his last two seasons and the sense that, for all its benefits, his uncompromising nature also made him quite a difficult man to deal with when it came to his role in the squad.

Carragher's experienced something of a renaissance under Brendan Rodgers in terms of playing style and pluck, though, adapting more quickly (which seemed impossible) than Steven Gerrard to the new manager's preferred approach and handling his reduced role with dignity and class. Always visible, always present, always talking--seriously, always--he accepted that Liverpool's future didn't include him, and with so many younger players in the squad, he was seemingly content to try to pass along whatever he could to those who'd be tasked with taking the club forward.

He's found himself with more to do than mentor, however, as Martin Skrtel's fading form and far too frequent lapses at the back have caused enough concern that Rodgers decided he needed more leadership (or just shouting) in his defense. Carragher's proved a competent stand-in, even if calling him a stand-in at this point feels like a little bit of a disservice. Capable performances against Norwich, Arsenal, and Manchester City have, at least for the time being, justified his selection, and it's now looking likely that the long goodbye will include more than a few appearances.

It's something of a strange spot to be in, planning to say goodbye to a player who's likely to keep playing regularly, or at least enough that saying goodbye right now would just seem sort of silly. And it's not as though today's announcement is some sort of surprise, and it certainly don't make him immune to error or criticism; I'm likely to curse him at least a handful of times for lack of pace or positioning, and then feel immeasurably guilty about the fact that I've just cursed a man who's in his final days on the pitch.

But at least we'll know he's playing out those final days in a manner most fitting--serving Liverpool Football Club in any way that's needed, and leaving no doubts as to where his loyalties lie.