Lost in news that Steven Gerrard had pushed up plans to undergo shoulder surgery and would miss the final two games of the season was that, as a result, Jamie Carragher would be handed the chance to see out the last two matches of his career as captain. He may always have been slated to get the armband at home against Fulham on the final weekend of the season, but now Carragher will also be the one who leads the side out against QPR on Sunday.
"He deserves it, really," was midfielder Lucas' take when asked about Carragher being given the chance to captain the side before he retires. "He has had an awesome career and for I don't know how many years he has been playing for the first team. He is an example. If you want to succeed as a Liverpool player, you need to really watch him and follow what he does—not just on the weekend, but on a daily basis.
"He is a great professional and the next two games, the armband will be a reward for him for what he has done and he'll retire on a high. He has been so successful so two wins would be perfect for him and perfect for the team. Maybe our league position won't change if we win the next two games, but when we play for Liverpool, we have to approach every game the same way."
Lucas himself will be a likely candidate to serve as vice-captain in Gerrard's absence, a turn of events few would have imagined possible a few short years ago. For Carragher, though, somewhat surprisingly the past few years have seen a shift nearly as large in both his role in the side and how he is seen by many of the fans as that experienced by Lucas.
With his game fading and managerial turmoil leading the discussion, there was a time when it appeared Carragher might end his career having forfeited much of the status he had built up over the years. Rumours flew that he was involved both in the dismissal of Rafa Benitez and the hiring of Roy Hodgson, with the player seen as a strong proponent of the English movement championed by managing director Christian Purlsow.
Combined with ageing legs and a tendency towards aimless long balls, Carragher's reputation for a time took a beating. There was even talk of the player switching sides if he felt he could still contribute but wasn't getting on the pitch often enough—and at the same time as fans were hearing rumbles about playing time demands, a hefty new contract handed to him by Pruslow in the final minutes before Fenway Sports Group finalised their purchase of the club.
Yet the final season of his career has seen him manage to reinvent himself under Brendan Rodgers, finding not just new life in tiring legs but an appreciation for possession football as he has picked back up the mantle of leadership that seemed for a time to have slipped to champion the new manager's approach. After a few lean years on the pitch—and a few years of concerning rumours and rumblings off it—Jamie Carragher is now, thankfully, once again Jamie Carragher.
Only this time around he's about the least likely player on the pitch to send an aimless long punt arcing over midfield and straight to the opposition. It's both reinvention and rediscovery. And as much as Carragher deserves the armband for all he did in his younger days, he equally deserves it for what he has managed in the final season of his career after a significant period of struggle and controversy.
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