Before his final Liverpool appearance this Sunday, defender Jamie Carragher answered questions from reporters gathered at Melwood on Wednesday. Read everything Liverpool’s No. 23 had to say.
One game to go. How are you feeling about retirement now?
Carragher: People keep asking me. The answer will come after the game. We just want to concentrate on the game. I’m looking forward to getting my tickets sorted and hopefully get a win, then I can look back and give you a better answer.
Have you, at any time, reconsidered retirement, or has Brendan [Rodgers] asked you to reconsider?
Carragher: No, not really. We’ve had a couple of chats about different things over the season, not just since I made my decision. The more I’ve been in the team, the more I’ve wanted to stick with my decision and go out playing. I’ve been quite fortunate really that at the time that I announced it, I kept myself in the side. I can go out playing, which is something I’d prefer rather than maybe stay another year and be in the stand, on the bench or wherever it may be.
What will be the best memory of your Liverpool career?
Carragher: Istanbul. Nothing will beat that — the [UEFA] Champions League final. There’s no point going over the game. I think we all know what happened that night. It’s difficult to ever top that.
What was it like, that feeling, to lift the European Cup?
Carragher: We’ve never won the league, which is a disappointment. If we’d have won that, maybe I could have compared the two. We’ve won FA Cups, Carling Cups, the UEFA Cup, but nothing compared to the Champions League. It’s the biggest and best trophy that you can win as a footballer in club football. It’s what we achieved.
Given the step you’re taking after your football career, does it rule out management or is that something you’re still looking at in the future?
Carragher: I’ve never ruled anything out or in. I’ve gone down this road for a couple of years. I’ll see if I enjoy it or if I’m any good at it, and see where it takes me. I’ve been playing football all my life, and I’m looking forward to doing different things and seeing where it takes me.
How emotional are you going to be at the weekend?
Carragher: I won’t be crying, put it that way!
Are you somebody who might have a “Wish I could have…” when you retire?
Carragher: I wish I’d have won the league. But you’ve given it everything and done as much as you can in terms of what you put into it. It’s a team game. There are different managers and coaches who have helped you along the way. You do your best. I’ve done all right.
You’ve been part of a close-knit family for all of those years. That’s a big part of your life that’s suddenly going to change.
Carragher: People automatically think of Anfield. I think of this place [Melwood]. This is where you come every day. This is where I’ve been coming since I was nine years of age. Anfield is sort of the icing on the cake where you go at the end of the week or every couple of weeks. It’s special, but this is where you come every day, the people you see, the people on the gate, the girls upstairs in the canteen, Ann on reception who is the only one who has been here longer than me — she’s just pipped me. It’s probably coming here and the characters and people you meet every day. You’ll have to fill that void in your life.
Will the door still be open for you? Do you plan on coming back?
Carragher: Ask Brendan on Friday. He’s the boss. Once you’re done, you’re done. I’m sure I’ll be welcome to come in for my lunch one day and watch training, but I don’t think it’s something I’ll be doing.
When did you first realize it was time to go?
Carragher: About 12 months ago, the end of the season. I was in and out of the side with Kenny. I was thinking about it in the summer, but I had a year to go and a new manager coming in. I knew then it was always going to be my last season.
Going back to your debut, would have you taken then what you have achieved?
Carragher: If someone had offered me to be here until the end of my career — the trophies, the big games we’ve played and won, the stadiums I’ve played in — I’d have bitten their hand off for that. I’m very lucky to have played with some great players, top managers and given the opportunity to experience those wins and sometimes losses. I’ve very lucky.
You mentioned the league title … why did Liverpool fall short?
Carragher: Very simple — we weren’t good enough, all of us. There’s no fancy reason or excuse. Other teams in that particular season were better than us. A couple of times we went close, but it was Manchester United or Arsenal. It’s not something I lose sleep over. I’ve been very lucky to achieve some of the things I have. If you look at everyone, there’s always something someone hasn’t done. There’s always more to achieve, whatever you’ve done. I’m pleased with how it’s gone.
You and Steven Gerrard always seem to be together — are there any concerns about Liverpool not having that local heartbeat in the team when you’ve gone?
Carragher: I’m probably more concerned about who he’s going to sit next to on the coach on the way home. I had that problem at the weekend coming back from Fulham when he wasn’t there. I was on my own!
Every club will say they want to bring players through from the academy — that’s why you have academies and put so much time and money into it. But the players have got to be good enough. If they’re good enough, brilliant — get them in there. It’s always good to have a few local lads in the side. That’s the aim of everyone.
Now that Alex Ferguson has retired at Manchester United, does it give everyone else an opportunity?
Carragher: I think it does a little bit more. He’s obviously been a top manager — his record is there for all to see. They’ve got another top manager in David Moyes. I’m sure he’ll do a great job there. I’m sure everyone is looking at it and seeing how it will go. Maybe it will give other people a chance to get in there if there is maybe a bit of uncertainty at the club. But Manchester United are probably aware of that as well, so I’m sure they’ll be doing everything to stop that.
In terms of the Liverpool you’re leaving, are you excited about the future of the club?
Carragher: I am. I’m always positive about the club. The last few years haven’t been great for us, with league positions and missing out on the Champions League. But with the new manager coming in and the run we’ve been on in the second half of the season, it gives us a lot to look forward to for next season.
How would a “team of Carraghers” cope in the Premier League?
Carragher: A lot of 0-0s!
Paul Scholes came back from retirement after half a year — can you see something similar for yourself?
Carragher: No, I don’t think so. The manager has known for a while that I’m retiring, so I’m sure he’s got plans in place and different players that he wants to bring in, ideas of what he wants to do.
How did if feel physically when you were [having cramps] in Istanbul?
Carragher: Not good! It was just one of those things. You’ve got to play on. Plenty of players have been in that situation and done the same — mine’s highlighted because of the magnitude of the game and everyone was watching. I’m not the only player who has had cramp in football and carried on — there are plenty of other players who have done that. It was just part of the game, that’s what made it so special. There were lots of different incidents and things going on. I’m just glad to have been part of it.
Who were the players who were inspirational for you during your time here?
Carragher: When I first got into the side, I’d say John Barnes. He was the captain and a great player — one of the top players to ever play for the club. As I came into the side a bit more, I’d say Steven Gerrard, even though he’s younger than me. He’s an inspiration, not just for younger players. It doesn’t matter if it’s a younger player or an older player. You watch the way he plays, what he’s done for us and how he’s won us a few trophies — he’s added to my medal collection! I’d say those two.
Defensively, who have you learned the most from?
Carragher: The best center-back I played alongside was Sami Hyypia. I thought he was a great player for the club. We’ve had lots of players, but it could also be a coach. We had Phil Thompson here, [Rafa] Benitez was brilliant at setting up defenses. He brought my game on a lot in terms of playing at center-back because that was his expertise — making a team solid. It’s difficult to pick one person. I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of different people.
How did you feel when your position was under pressure?
Carragher: It gives you motivation. Football is a fight, really, whether it’s opposition, or sometimes it can be within your own dressing room in terms of getting a place. We’re all mates. We’re a big squad, but when the team goes up, there’s only one name that you look for. It’s added motivation, but if it hadn’t have happened, I’d have still motivated myself some other way. I’ve always been that type of lad. It pushed me on and made me a better player.
Have your recent performances made you think you could carry on?
Carragher: It’s made me go the other way, to be honest. It’s made me think it is the right time. It’s nice that I’m in the side and people are saying I’m doing well and why not stay for another year? It’s better than them saying you should have gone a year ago. I prefer it to be like that and get out while it’s going well because it can easily change.
How has the game changed during your era?
Carragher: Anyone who has been in football the amount of time I have, you look from day one until now. There are big changes. The sports science side of it has come on more than anything — doctors, how to train and all this type of stuff. I think that has been the big advance in the game during that time. Four or five years ago, the Premier League was its best. I think it’s dipped a little bit at the moment. A few years ago, ourselves, Chelsea and Manchester United were always close to winning the Champions League for two or three years. I think that was the height of the Premier League — hopefully that’s something that I’ll be able to talk about next season and we get the Premier League back up there. It would be nice to see some more top players coming in and give the league a little bit of a boost.
Rio Ferdinand has announced his England retirement today. Do you look back and think it would be nice to have had a few more games at that level?
Carragher: I wish he’d have retired years ago — I might have got a few more games! He’s been a great player, he’s retired from England. He’s a similar age to me, so it was always going to come up at one time or another. Him and John Terry were the cornerstones of the England side for 10 years, and it was just timing really — it was difficult for me to get in. They’re two great player,s and I wish them well.
Is there anything you won’t miss about being a professional player?
Carragher: The feeling when you get beat, but I suppose I’ll have that as a fan — watching and I won’t be able to do anything about it if results aren’t going well for Liverpool. So that feeling after a defeat. You’re pretty low for a few days.
Photo via Liverpoolfc.com