Jamie Carragher set to close out his 16-year career at Anfield

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The one-club man has become an endangered species. There will always be scarce exceptions to the new rules – conventions that implicitly encourage clubs and players to move on from each other. There are fewer John Terrys, a player who has spent his whole career at Chelsea. There are fewer Paul Scholeses, somebody who will play his last game for Manchester United tomorrow. And when Ryan Giggs eventually retires another of the one-club species will leave the landscape.

Liverpool has two prominent one-club men, but in the same year captain Steven Gerrard has revitalized his career, defender Jamie Carragher is calling time on a 16-year career. Tomorrow at Anfield, the 35-year-old former England international will play his final game, set to retire after the Reds host Queens Park Rangers. With the game holding little importance for a Liverpool team locked in seventh, Carragher’s farewell will take center stage in front of the Kop.

“People keep asking me how I will feel – the answer will come after the game,” Carragher explained. “I’m just looking forward to getting my tickets sorted and hopefully get a win, then I can look back and give you a better answer. I won’t be crying, put it that way.”

Like Gerrard, Carragher has experienced a resurgence in 2012-13, surprising given club’s vice-captain was expected to further recede into a reserve’s role this season. But at some point in the campaign, new manager Brendan Rodgers turned to Carragher to solve one of this team’s bigger problems – the similarity between center halves Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel. Assuming Skrtel’s starting role, Carragher has been part of Liverpool’s improvement over the season’s second half.

In that way, Carragher’s able to go out on his own terms. Although he knew he was going to retire before regaining his starting role, Carragher’s reclaimed role means he can leave as a valued contributor, not merely a hanger on. Tomorrow will be his 24th game of the season, adding to a career which will see him play 737 games by the time he’s subbed off the field tomorrow.

“The more I’ve been in the team, the more I’ve wanted to stick with my decision and go out playing,” Carragher said. “I’ve been quite fortunate really that at the time that I announced it, I kept myself in the side.”

Since debuting in early 1997, Carragher’s won two FA Cups, three League Cups, a UEFA Cup and, most memorably, UEFA Champions League in 2004-05, when Liverpool defeated AC Milan in Istanbul to become European champions. That three-goal comeback, with Carragher starting in central defense next to Sami Hyppia, was the high point of his career.

“Istanbul, nothing will beat that – the 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.”

The one missing piece from Carragher’s resume, however, is the Premier League. He’s come close, most recently in 2008-09 when the Reds finished in second place, four points behind Manchester United. Since, Liverpool hasn’t come close to a title, leaving Carragher to retire without a league winner’s medal.

“I wish I’d won the league. But 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.”

Nor should it he. A player shouldn’t be entirely defined by team performance, and even if he is, Liverpool’s been far more successful than most. A stalwart in defense over parts of the last three decades, Carragher has been a big part of that.

While Carragher could probably contribute to next year’s team, his reclaiming a spot in Rodgers’ XI makes this the perfect time to goodbye. Tomorrow, he’ll get his chance at Anfield.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.