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really good read I thought.

Hellraiser hath no fury any more
By Oliver Kay

Life continues to get better for the Liverpool defender described as the perfect professional by his manager

THAT OLD TALE ABOUT GEORGE BEST and the bellboy who asked where it all went wrong as the footballer-turned-playboy cracked open a bottle of champagne with Miss World, bundles of cash all around them, could do with being revised for the modern age. On an away trip, a hotel waiter brings a couple of bottles of mineral water for Jamie Carragher to find him surrounded with football magazines as he studiously watches a mid-table Spanish game on the television. “Jamie, Jamie, where did it all go right?”

It is a question that came to mind during an hour in the defender’s company at Liverpool’s training ground last week. Carragher, “the perfect professional”, according to Rafael Benítez, winced as he contemplated what the Spaniard might have made of him had he arrived at Anfield a few years earlier.

He recalled being “a little bit of a hellraiser”, cringing in his recollection of his misdemeanours on and off the pitch, not least the coin he threw into the crowd at Highbury, and generally gave the impression of a man who has rediscovered contentment by committing himself to the game as he did in his more innocent youth.

Like any self-respecting Scouser, Carragher was “a bit of a scally” as a child, but such antics are not the abiding memories of growing up in Bootle. It was a childhood of Panini sticker albums, of reading Shoot and Match cover to cover and playing in the street until dark.

It was by no means idyllic — his father, Philly, spent time in prison — but football gave the young Carragher a focus and a dream that, to his continuing wonderment, he is fulfilling as a European champion with Liverpool.

“I just love football, really,” he said and, while that may sound like a statement of the obvious, he added that there are alarming numbers in his privileged position who do not. “I hate that. They’re only playing the game because they’re good at it,” he said. “If they didn’t have a talent for it, they would have no interest at all. With some players, you talk about big teams in Europe and they don’t even know the team. I’m not criticising them — well obviously I am by saying it — but I just can’t understand it. That’s just the way some players are.”

Similarly, some are preoccupied with image. Carragher? This is a man who has had the same haircut since he was 12 and, mocked by his friends when he produced a wallet on a night out — “just a normal wallet” — will carry his spare change in his pocket for the rest of his life.

Bling is not his thing and nor are film premieres. “It does my head in seeing all that,” he said. “It’s up to them what they get up to, but going all these places and wearing suits? All them haircuts and gel? I hate even dressing up. I just like to be casual and wear my jeans and trainers.

“I like to play football, go home, go for a drink at my local pub. Yes, I’ve got a few quid and I’ve got a nice lifestyle and a nice house and nice car, but that’s enough for me.” So the yellow Corvette attracting covetous glances in the car park is not his, then? “No. I’ve got a Range Rover. That’ll do me. It’s a classy car, but it’s not flashy, is it?” On the contrary, it says everything about its owner: classy, yes, but above all robust and utterly dependable. So much so that Liverpool supporters have come to sing that they “dream of a team of Carraghers” to the tune of Yellow Submarine.

But it was not always thus. He recalls a period, barely three years ago, when they saw him as expendable, when he was attracting such derision in the Liverpool Echo letters column that his father (“my biggest supporter”) began to look up those critics in the telephone directory and give them a piece of his mind.

“It was in a period where the team wasn’t doing well,” Carragher said. “It was after the treble in 2001 and then we’d finished second and then for the next two years under Gérard Houllier, it didn’t go well. At the time Arsenal were flying and Real Madrid were flying in Europe and I think our fans looked at Ashley Cole and Lauren and (Michel) Salgado and Roberto Carlos and thought, ‘ That’s what we need, an attacking full back. We don’t need Carra no more.’ And I was never going to be an attacking full back.”

It seems that Houllier, whom he cites as a huge influence on his career, felt the same. “He brought in (Sami) Hyypia and (Stéphane) Henchoz when I’d been playing centre back and that forced me to become a right back,” Carragher said. “Then he brought (Markus) Babbel in, so I moved to left back, and then he brought (John Arne) Riise in and I ended up going back to right back, and then (Steve) Finnan arrived. It was the same every season. I’d still end up playing, but I think that was just through my enthusiasm and dedication.”

These days, under Benítez, Carragher is so accomplished at centre half that he need not worry about the arrivals of Daniel Agger, who came from Brondby in January, and Gabriel Paletta, who will join from Banfield, the Argentine club, in July. “It’s probably only about now where I feel comfortable with my position,” he said. “Not comfortable in a bad way. I just mean where I’m not worried about what the manager’s going to do in the summer.”

A devoted husband and a proud father of two, he is almost unrecognisable from the tearaway who had one sole aim on his nights off as a youngster.

“When you’re a young lad in Liverpool and you’ve got a few quid, what do you do after a game on a Saturday when you haven’t got a girlfriend?” Carragher said. “You go out with your mates, don’t you, and do what they do. But then I got to that age where probably not just footballers but people in general start to grow up. You settle down, you have a baby and, well, you can’t go out as much, can you, but you don’ t even want to.
“I’ve changed, but I think the game has changed. I think most of the lads went for a drink after the Everton game last week, which isn’t a problem because we won and we didn’t have a game for a week, but then training last Tuesday, it just didn’t feel right. I cringe when I think what I used to get up to, going out for a couple of nights on the run and getting away with it. I don’t know how I did it. There’s no way you could get away with that now.

“It all goes back to something I think Gérard Houllier said about Stevie (Gerrard) a few years back. ‘Don’t go out to nightclubs. When you retire, you can buy a nightclub when you’ve finished.’ ”

And if Carragher does, it will probably be The Grafton on West Derby Road — rough and ready, far from flashy, but gloriously, unmistakeably Scouse.


TO HEAR HIM ENTHUSE ABOUT football and footballers, about different teams and systems, one would think that Jamie Carragher is certain to become a manager, but he is not so sure.

He and Steven Gerrard have taken the first steps towards gaining their coaching qualifications, but even this dedicated student of the game, unnerved by the obsessive approach of Rafael Benítez, wonders where the next generation of managers will come from.

“Some of us have started our coaching badges,” Carragher said, “but I’m not sure about it at the moment. It’s so 24/7. Having worked under Gérard Houllier and Benítez, you wonder how they can have a life. People say I’m obsessed by football, but he (Benítez) is unbelievable. It’s just football, football, football.

“I’ve never spoken to him about anything other than football. Not that I mind that, but with the lack of sleep and the supporters and the press, it’s so difficult to do that job now because if you want to be the best, you’ve got to do it as they do and have no life out of football.

“It scares you at times how hard they graft. And I think more and more it will be people like that who become top managers because I don’t think players will want to put that work in after their playing careers, because they’ll feel they’ve had their career.

“People like them and (José) Mourinho are obsessed and I think partly what drives them is that they haven’t been top players and this is the only way they can get the career they want. When you realise how much work you’ve got to put in to be a coach or a manager, it puts a lot of players off because we’ve had an easy life playing.”


88 Posts
liver bird said:
really good read I thought.

And if Carragher does, it will probably be The Grafton on West Derby Road — rough and ready, far from flashy, but gloriously, unmistakeably Scouse.
Ha, ha

The thought of Carra buying the Grafton... :howler: :D :D :howler:
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