Thursday, June 28, 2007

100 Person Who Shock The Kop - NO 7: Jamie Carragher


Voted in at number seven in our '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series is current defensive rock and cult-hero of the fans, Jamie Carragher.
Four years after our ground-breaking '100 Days That Shook The Kop', we are delighted to invite you to enjoy our new '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series – the definitive countdown of the 100 players who have made the biggest impact at Liverpool.

Over 110,000 supporters have all nominated their own personal Top 10 players in order of impact made and now the definitive top 100 countdown is underway.

Every player who has made the top 100 – and there are some surprises in there - will be honoured on this website via the e-Season ticket console with a specially produced video clip, including archive footage and exclusive interviews.

Since 1892 hundreds of players have represented this club but everyone has their own particular favourites so don't expect this list to be based solely on talent. The greatness of a player can be measured in many ways – obviously, his ability on the pitch is the most important, but 100 PWSTK is much more than that. It's about the impact the individuals chosen have had on this club, be it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was because of their unique rapport with the crowd, a specific incident that has never been forgotten or anything else that has left a lasting impression.

Name: Jamie Carragher

Years at Liverpool: 1996 to present
Position: Defender

Date-of-birth: 28/1/1978
Birthplace: Bootle

Signed from: Apprentice (October 1996)

Games: 426
Goals: 3

Honours: European Cup (2005), FA Cup (2001, 2006), UEFA Cup (2001), League Cup (2001, 2003), Charity Shield (2001, 2006), Super Cup (2001, 2005), FA Youth Cup (1996)

His boyhood footballing allegiances may have lay on the wrong side of Stanley Park but ask any Liverpool fan who their representative is out on the pitch and you can bet the majority would plump for Jamie Carragher.

A blue-blooded Evertonian he may have been when growing up in the Marsh Lane area of Bootle but cut Carragher in half today and he'll bleed nothing but Liverpool red.

A no-nonsense defender, who plays with the passion and devotion of the most fanatical Liverpudlian, Carra has been a key figure in all of the Reds' recent triumphs and his value to the team is priceless.

A local working class hero, with the broadest of Scouse accents, he rose through the Anfield youth ranks and has remained true to his roots. As modest and down-to-earth as they come, in the modern game his attitude is both refreshing and endearing.

He also possesses a genuine love of the game and while such attributes have earned him the adulation of the Liverpool crowd, that's not the only reason why they hold him in the highest esteem. Far from it. His playing qualities command huge respect and not just within the confines of L4.

Widely regarded as one of the finest out-and-out defenders in Europe at the moment, comparisons with such defensive greats as Franco Baresi should not be taken lightly, for Jamie Carragher is fully deserving of such plaudits.

Although he started out in the game as a free-scoring striker and excelled in a holding midfield role for the Reds' successful FA Youth Cup winning side of 1996, he's a natural-born stopper.

Whether it be at left-back, right-back or centre-back, he defends the Liverpool goal as if his life depends on it – as perhaps best proved from half-time onwards in the unforgettable 2005 Champions League Final against AC Milan in Istanbul.

Originally spotted as a 12-year old by the late scout Harry Hodges, Carragher's meteoric progression from Youth Cup winner to European Champion is one that offers hope to all aspiring local youngsters and his rise to eminence as a role model was recognised in 2005 when awarded the freedom of his native Sefton.

It hasn't all been plain sailing though. After making his first team debut as a substitute for Rob Jones in a Carling Cup tie at Middlesbrough in January 1997, he celebrated his full debut with a headed goal in front of the Kop during a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa, but struggled to hold down a regular place in the side and then found himself lampooned with the tag 'utility man'.

While his versatility was to work in his favour to a certain extent during those early years, it prevented him from showing his true class in one position and he was not instantly adopted as a firm favourite of the fans, like he is today.

Some doubted his ability to carve out a long-term future at the club and, when the team was struggling, it was not unknown for the crowd to unfairly vent their anger on the homegrown discovery.

There were even times when it looked like his Anfield career could be drawing to a close. A succession of big money buys were brought in and his place seemed in constant danger but each and every time he resiliently knuckled down, refused to kick up a fuss and eventually saw off the challenge of all newcomers.

Seemingly growing in stature with every game, Carra slowly won over the doubters and blossomed into a highly consistent performer who was to become one of the first names on the Liverpool team-sheet.

Having served part of his early football education at the FA national school of excellence in Lilleshall and represented his country on a joint record number of occasions at under-21 level, his growing reputation in the game was reinforced in 1999 when he won his first full England cap.

But while his talents have never been truly appreciated at international level his club bosses, Gerard Houllier and now Rafael Benitez, have never underestimated the immense contribution he makes.

Upon taking over the Anfield managership in 2004, Benitez was so impressed by his dedication and work-rate that he had no hesitation in appointing him vice-captain to Steven Gerrard, and as stand-in skipper he proudly held aloft the European Super Cup the following year.

Carragher will be first to admit that he's not the most technically gifted player to have ever pulled on the red shirt but a combination of hard work and a fully committed approach to his profession have helped him attain his goals.

An impeccable reader of the game and fine man-marker, he's strong in the tackle, dominant in the air and exerts a positive influence on all those around him. He would run through a brick wall in aid of the Liverpool cause and has displayed a willingness to play through the pain barrier.

After breaking his leg away to Blackburn in September 2003 he refused to accept that he couldn't continue and eventually left the field with a genuine belief that he'd let his team-mates down, while during extra-time of the Champions League Final he bravely soldiered on despite being crippled with excruciating cramp.

As you'd expect from such a defensive-minded player there are not many goals to recall when looking back over his career – just three in total, plus a successful penalty conversion in the 2001 Worthing Cup Final shoot-out against Birmingham - and won't mention the few he unfortunately put through his own net.

One of a select band of players to have played over 400 games for the club, his loyalty to the Reds is commendable. When once asked in an interview if he'd ever contemplate a move to somewhere bigger, his quick-as-a-flash reply was 'there is nowhere bigger than Liverpool'.

It's this type of attitude that has helped earn him 'living legend' status among those on the Kop, who dream about a 'team of Carragher's'. There have been many better players in Liverpool history but few have had a greater affinity with the crowd.

'23 Carra Gold' is the wording on one of the many banners to have been created by supporters in his honour and there can be no denying that Jamie Carragher is a present day jewel in Liverpool's crown.

Claim to fame: Giving Jerzy Dudek an inspirational pep-talk before the penalty shoot-out drama in Istanbul

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