Early Doors

There’s only one Jamie Carragher

Liverpool fans are fond of chanting how they "dream of a team of Carraghers", but in August, for the first time since 1996, they will have to contemplate the reality of a first-team squad without one.

Son James is in the youth ranks, as we saw in 'Being: Liverpool', so the umbilical link to the club remains, and one day there may well be another Carragher gracing the Anfield stage.

Actually that's a fitting title, 'Being: Liverpool', as Carragher, along with his trusty companion Steven Gerrard, has been Liverpool for years now. Not successive American owners or superstar Spanish strikers, but the boy raised in Bootle.

If you don't support Liverpool then the chances are you might have felt a bit nonplussed by confirmation from the defender yesterday that this season would be his last.

After all, it was made fairly apparent in the early months of Brendan Rodgers's reign that he was looking for a different breed of centre-back: a ball-player, not a scrapper. Though Carragher has found himself back in the team of late, his ongoing relevance as a Liverpool defender has been generally diminishing.

Indeed, had he been at a club performing at a higher level these past few years, he may already have been moved on in the manner of Wes Brown or John O'Shea at United.

It's a strange thought, Carragher in any other shirt than Liverpool's, even though we all knew he grew up an Everton fan, just like Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman before him.

But he has devoted his entire professional life to the city that spawned him and the club that took him on aged nine. That's why for Liverpool fans, yesterday's announcement meant an awful lot indeed. It also meant a lot to Carragher.

"It has been a privilege and an honour to represent this great club for as long as I have and I am immensely proud to have done so and thankful for all the support I have had," he said. "There are many memories I want to share and people to thank, but now is not the time for that."

The last remaining player from Roy Evans's reign, Carragher is the final product of the Boot Room era still playing; Gerrard came later, spotted in the youth ranks by Gerard Houllier. The older Scouser represents a link, albeit a tenuous one, to a glorious past.

He made a giant contribution to Liverpool's present down the years as well of course. Performances against Juventus and Chelsea en route to Istanbul were gargantuan. Then, as Gerrard enthusiastically lifted the Champions League trophy above his head in the Turkish city, Carragher took stock next to him, having spent every last molecule of energy trying to keep Kaka, Crespo and Shevchenko at bay.

By turns a midfielder, right-back, left-back and then, under Rafa Benitez, finally a centre-back of international repute, Carragher has accepted every role the club has asked him to perform.

In a sport where the bottom line increasingly trumps all other considerations, and tramples all over such dated concepts as loyalty and dependability, you wonder whether a Carragher coming through the ranks now would have survived the brief periods where he was out of favour, or shunted around the defence.

The money in the game works both ways too. How many more players will see out their entire careers with one club, as Carragher has done and Gerrard soon will? In a world of free transfers and huge signing-on fees, the number of individuals willing to take that route is diminishing.

Such is his Scouse accent, thick as tar, and his innate understanding of the culture of the club, you can't really imagine Carragher anywhere else. Maybe he won't be.

Early Doors would love to see him in the Sky Sports studio forming a Manc-Scouse double act with former rival Gary Neville, but what looks most likely is an ongoing role with the club. Perhaps coaching the youth team or working as some kind of ambassador.

It is accepted as a universal truth about Carragher that some day he will make a fantastic manager, such is his knowledge of and interest in the game.

England manager Roy Hodgson said as much yesterday when paying his own tribute. He said: "Having worked with Jamie Carragher it was always evident that he was a model professional who gave everything he had for club and country. After retirement I'm sure he will march quickly up the coaching ladder and become one of the country's top young coaches."

Things are rarely that simple, though Liverpool will surely give him a chance to test his mettle in their coaching ranks, and will try to mould him as a possible manager of the future.

Liverpool could never have a whole team of Carraghers, but perhaps one day they will have a team led by one. A future without him at Anfield seems nigh on impossible.

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COMING UP: Watford take on Crystal Palace in the Championship tonight, with kick-off at Vicarage Road coming at 7.45pm. Before that we have our usual Friday fare: all the weekend's previews, the result of our Goal of the Week poll, Jim White's latest blog and the Fantasist's live chat.