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.