Jamie Carragher, Happy Birthday.

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Jamie Carragher, Happy Birthday.
Michael Regan/Getty Images

"Man, who's that screamin' on the pitch", inquired a fellow football fan to me, during Liverpool's second Champions League qualifier against Standard Liege, last season.

With the sort of penalty-tension looming, not only in my mind, but miles away at Anfield, I still conjured an involuntary smile.

The thought of Jamie "Carra" Carragher screaming his guts out, from halfway across the pitch, trying to order or suggest something like a simple pass, was enough to reassure my nerves.

Moments later, Ryan Babel would place in a cross that would be met by Dirk Kuyt to seal our passage to the group stages.

During the chaotic celebration that did follow, I feel Carra would have celebrated for a few seconds.

Such is his understanding of the task at hand, that despite others encouraging celebration, Carragher would invoke the arduous reality of "the match isn't over."

It's really difficult to comprehend sometimes, where did he get all that.

Would anyone have thought that 32 years ago, on 28th January, a newborn named James Lee Duncan Carragher of Bootle (Merseyside, Liverpool) would go on to be one of the most important figures in the history of a European powerhouse, Liverpool FC?

Perhaps, we realize the importance and value of a person, when there's a huge void left by the person's absence.

While fellow teammates Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres get all the attention from the media, concerning 'imperial Liverpool team' tags with the duo's presence and 'dire Liverpool team' with their absence, it's amazing no one gives a pennies damn if Carragher's name is in the team sheet or not.

Is it our slight over-looked matter that we expect Carragher to be ever-present in any Liverpool team sheet drawn before the match or is it our ignorance of a hard-worker, who gives it all against all odds?

Even if it's either of the two or both, it's a stark reminder that hard-workers, who don't complain much, hardly get a graze of our collective deluded visions which seek only slick skills or flashes of brilliance.

For all the qualities that Carragher exudes, be it hard-working or no-nonsense defending (as Martin Tyler once famously put it during a match) or 100 percent commitment, the one that really stands out is, honesty.

Brian Reade, in his article paying tribute to Carragher's 500th appearance for the club, rather bluntly started with words that truly embodied Carragher's presence at Liverpool:

 

I   can tell you with some certainty that Bill Shankly would have loved Jamie Carragher because he told me so.

Not via the gin-soaked throat of Madame Margie The Menopausal Medium in the back room of a London Road pub one wet Tuesday afternoon, but on a baking hot day in Melwood in June 1975, when I asked him to name the best Liverpool player he'd ever managed:

"I've had many skillful men," he rasped, "and the likes of Peter Thompson, Ian St John, Kevin Keegan and Steve Heighway were the ones who caught the eye. But the best professional of the lot was Gerry Byrne. He wasn't flashy and he wouldn't score you goals. But he was hard and skillful and gave you everything he had. More than that he was totally honest. Which is the greatest quality of all. He was a true Liverpudlian who couldn't look his fellow Scousers in the face after a game unless he'd given everything he had for 90 minutes." 

Carragher is not a great actor and he doesn't hide the emotions of letting himself or others down.

I have seen countless television images of him, riling his fellow players after Liverpool concede a goal.

Carragher, I believe, has been given the freedom by Rafa Benitez to take matters into his own hands. Possibly, as players sometimes lose concentration and what better if you have a leader, who knows the size of the task better than you, ordering you.

There's a feeling that players sometime leave the disappointments of the pitch at the pitch, trying to get rid of them in the outside world.

But for a player like Carragher the lines that separate pitch and the outside world, have become jarringly overlapping.

One defeat, perhaps would give them sleepless nights. But along with such morale sinkers, comes a burning desire to make the wrongs right.

Despite, holding the dubious record of scoring more own-goals for Liverpool rather than scoring for Liverpool, you would rather have Carragher ever-present on your team-sheet.

Did we forget, that just years before we were dreaming of a Liverpool team full of 'Carraghers'?

Or did we forget, the defender's colossus displays that saw a record fifth European trophy being safely tucked away at the Anfield trophy cabinet?

Surely, Juventus and AC Milan came to know of the harsh truth that sometimes, it's not the star players who win you the matches, but it's the telling (or often unnoticed) contributions of players, who despite all odds do something about a situation rather than moan about the possibilities.

For Carragher, we expect those levels, and expectations arise from past glories.

But had anyone placed a doubt that he would flinch from his duty?

Or rather, leave the club?

Michael Owen did that. Steven Gerrard was almost close to that.

But Carra famously answered, "I'd never do that. "

I bet, his answer wouldn't have changed even if  Liverpool   were relegated to the third-tier in consecutive seasons.

Such is his commitment, that you can bet anything on him.

As Mr.Reade put it,  Well can you think of a better man to trust your life with?

Jamie Lee Duncan Carragher, 32-years-old,  Liverpool vice-captain - Happy Birthday.

Here's wishing that we see you showing off the Premier League winners medal sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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