Jamie Carragher: One-on-One

Liverpool fans are a notoriously loyal bunch - but few deserve the adulation quite like Jamie Carragher, whose 737 appearances for the club are bettered only by Ian Callaghan. He retired gracefully in 2013, but not before we sat down with the legendary defender in April 2010...

FourFourTwo is rarely upstaged but as we're about to board the train from London to Liverpool, we're held back by frantic staff. Prince William then appears from behind the tinted windows of a Range Rover and boards first-class. Two hours later and we're in Liverpool, keen to discuss our celebrity spotting. We hail a taxi. "Liverpool's training ground, please."

"Jump, in lad."

"Prince William was on our train," we say, maybe a bit too excitedly.

"Really?" comes the reply. "What you doing at the training ground?"

Ah yes, this is Liverpool, where football and its protagonists come well before a mere heir to the throne. "We're Not English, We Are Scouse!" proclaims one flag on The Kop. If that independence was ever realised, it would be Jamie Carragher – a local totally immersed in the very fabric of the city – whose face would grace the currency. That regal status is deserved. After all, Carragher has given a lot. Thirteen years of his life, over 600 games, a few goals, a broken leg and several gallons of sweat. Now he's ready to give his time to you and your questions...

As a teenager you were a striker. What type were you: penalty-box predator, unselfish playmaker or bruising battering ram who left opposing kids in tears?
Stan Gillespie, Newcastle
As a nine- or 10-year-old I was an old-fashioned centre-forward: a real no.9. I was quick, I scored lots of goals, I held the ball up. My main attribute was my pace, though. At Bootle Boys and when I started at Liverpool I was a striker, but then I didn't really develop physically. At 14, I went to Lilleshall and changed my game a bit. I was still a striker but was more of a Teddy Sheringham type who dropped deep and held the ball up. By then I didn't have the pace or the strength to be the main centre-forward but luckily people saw something else in me. I didn't make defenders cry but I did once score against Italy's Gianluigi Buffon in Sardinia for the England under-16s. That was my centre-forward moment of glory.

I read that your dad nearly had a fight with Kenny Dalglish while watching you play as a kid. What was all that about? What Liverpool player was most disliked in your Everton home?
Jon Pike, Wirral
I was playing for Bootle Boys against our main rivals, Crosby. We were the two best teams in the city and Kenny was there watching his son Paul. It was a massive game and we were losing 1-0. We got a late, dubious penalty and even though he was the Liverpool manager at the time, Kenny let the referee know what he thought of the decision. Kenny's not shy and neither is my dad. A lot of the other dads probably thought, "It's Kenny Dalglish – I'm not saying anything," but my dad shouted down the touchline, "Oi Kenny, you know all about dodgy penalties, you get enough of them at Anfield!" My old man was a big Evertonian and so was I back then. Ian Rush was disliked but only because he scored so many against them. For me, Steve McMahon was the one that stands out. He played for Everton before Liverpool and used to have some big clashes with Peter Reid. He got some stick from the Everton lads.

You scored on your full Premier League debut against Aston Villa in front of the Kop: how did you feel and, more importantly, how did you celebrate that night?
Ben Casey, Blackburn
I felt good. The ball came across and I just thought, "Get a decent touch on it." I did and it went in. What I remember is the roar from the Kop. I haven't experienced it much since but it was the noise that stayed with me. After the match I went to my local for a few beers and then to a club with my mates. I was playing for Liverpool, I've just scored – I had to make the most of it, didn't I?

The first of m- oh, maybe not

When you first broke into the team, you were used as a utility player – how frustrating was it being moved from position to position and how much more difficult did this make your job?
Sam Taylor, Cornwall
I didn't see it like that. I never classified myself as a utility player. I played different positions for Liverpool but I played in those positions for whole seasons. Under Roy Evans I was used in the centre of midfield. Houllier then came in and I played the whole season at centre-back. Then I went to right-back, then left-back so it was never changing from game to game. There was so much competition at Liverpool I was just pleased to be playing, so no, it was never difficult for me. As Gerard Houllier used to say, "Adapt or die."

Is it true you were still an Everton fan when you joined Liverpool, but switched allegiances after remorseless ribbing from Everton fans after a defeat to Manchester United in 1999?
James Chester, Salford
I was a Liverpool player and by then a Liverpool fan, but I wanted Everton to do OK. We got beat at United 2-1 in the FA Cup having led for most of the match and I went to the pub gutted. All the Evertonians were getting the beers in and celebrating our defeat where I had wanted to drown my sorrows. I thought I've got to get out of here. After that I became a true Liverpudlian and actively wanted them to lose!

What did you and your Liverpool team-mates think when Gerard Houllier came to Liverpool and was made joint manager? "This isn't going to work"? How did this unique set-up work behind the scenes: for example, who picked the team and gave the half-time team talks?
Kieron West, Dublin
Houllier took an instant liking to me so I was delighted. The situation, though, was a nightmare. It was very awkward because the players who had been there under Roy were obviously in his camp and it made it hard to work out who to go to and who was in charge. Paul Ince, [Jason] McAteer, Robbie [Fowler], Jamie [Redknapp] – they had an allegiance to Evans. I remember Houllier also brought in his own assistants and Roy had his so it was a busy dressing room! Both would give team-talks, which was strange. It was wrong. The club should have been strong enough to make the decision and tell Roy it was the end and to start again under Houllier. It was a joke that a club as big as Liverpool should have had that sort of set-up.

"Err, we'll iron out the details later"

Jamie, you've got a great goalscoring record – in your own net! Do you get much stick for being Liverpool's all time own-goal-getter? More seriously, how did you feel scoring two own goals against Manchester United in 1999 to hand them a 3-2 victory? You were the toast of Manchester that night!
Declan Rider, Isle of Man
I recall what a nightmare it was. I was only 20 and I actually look back on it with a bit of pride because a lot of young players might not have come back from that.

As a boyhood Everton fan and Liverpool legend, could you ever foresee the two clubs ground-sharing, given the well publicised financial situations both clubs find themselves in?
Mick Aitchison, Anfield 
No. I wouldn't want to see that happen. [Gives a wry, cheeky smile] We'd be using it a lot more than them and they'd churn our pitch up. They want it more than us, don't they? When Everton were going to build a stadium on the King's Dock, there was no talk of Liverpool sharing that. Now their plans have gone a bit awry, the topic has popped up again. From what I'm hearing within the club, I don't think our stadium is too far off. Hopefully that good news will happen in the next six months and we can move on. We're Liverpool Football Club, one of the biggest in the world, and we deserve a really special, iconic stadium.

Liverpool's treble-winning season had so much late drama but which moment was better: Michael Owen's late goal in the FA Cup Final or the own goal golden goal that secured the UEFA Cup over Alaves? I was in tears after both!
Cathy O'Hara, Solihull
The FA Cup. We had been battered for 90 minutes by Arsenal – battered. I remember Patrick Vieira that day was just unplayable, but suddenly Michael's popped up and the relief is amazing. The Alaves game was different. We were the better team and whilst it was brilliant in Dortmund, the win in Cardiff seemed more special. It's a day that has been slightly overlooked because of Istanbul.

"Vieira that day was unplayable" – that's one way of putting it...

The notion of the 'one-club man' has become very rare these days. Why do you think that is? Can you see yourself playing or managing against Liverpool?
Jack Bavington, Melbourne
The foreign influence on the game has meant the turnaround at clubs is much faster. There's a huge demand for success these days: with that, managers come and go quickly, and they bring in new ideas and new faces. The money in the game is massive and the world is smaller. The days of a Matt Le Tissier staying at Southampton are over. The lure of big money and Champions League football would be too great now. If I go into management I'm sure I'll face Liverpool, as I would work myself up. I'd be desperate to win because they'd be my team but it would be weird coming out of the tunnel at Anfield and doing a left. I hope I never play against them.

Jamie, you were there. Can you clear up what happened between God (Robbie Fowler) and Phil Thompson?
Michael Gardner, Merseyside
Robbie was having some shots at the goal, and Phil was getting some balls out. Robbie wasn't trying to hit him but wanted to give him a scare and got very close. Robbie was laughing and Phil went mad. Robbie wasn't in the team and was probably up for a fight with anybody at the time. Both went toe-to-toe for a bit but soon calmed down.

Fowler, Owen or Torres: who's the best?
Jason Edwards, via e-mail
[Thinks long and hard]
 I'd say Torres because of how many goals he's scored for us, and how quickly he's scored them. I'd also be swayed by what he's done for Spain at the highest level. The thing is, though, Robbie and Michael won trophies at the club and that's what football is all about. But Torres will be the first to say that to be a true legend he must win silverware. Not that it's his fault we haven't won anything since he got here. Bloody hell, he's doing his job.

Of all the strikers you've played against, who was the best, dirtiest and most likely to moan?
Kira Milmo, Stoke Newington
[Without hesitation]
 Oh, Craig Bellamy is the most likely to moan! Craig doesn't stop. I like him, though: he has fire in his belly. The best is probably Thierry Henry, but he gave me more problems when I was a full-back as he would pull wide. That Arsenal team had Ashley Cole bombing on, Pires moving inside and Henry pulling wide. I had some tough times there. The toughest is Didier Drogba. A defender should be kicking strikers and imposing themselves on them but with Drogba it's the other way around. Having said that, some of my best games have been against him.

One way of dealing with the Drog

You were out injured for a long time between 2002 and 2004. Were you ever worried that you might lose your place in the team or the club during your absence? How did you keep yourself occupied while not playing?
Ryan Butterworth, Ipswich
I broke my leg but because Gerard Houllier was such a master man-manager, I was never worried. He knows exactly how players feel when they're out and he was always on the phone, saying, "Don't worry, you'll be back as soon as you're fit." Every day he called me. I can't remember how I kept myself occupied but I do know I am a nightmare when I'm injured. The physios hate me – I'm pestering them 24/7 about when I'll be back.

What went through your mind when Lucas Neill – the man who broke your leg – almost signed for Liverpool? 
Mark Riches, Kent
I thought it was strange and I wasn't too happy. He was only coming as a squad player so I thought, "What was the point?" He's wasn't going to transform the team. If he was, then I'd get on with things but to bring him in just as cover for Steve Finnan seemed a bit odd.

You have made no secret of your desire to go into management when the playing days are over. What type of manager will you be: Rafa-style tactician, Harry Redknapp-esque wheeler-dealer or Fergie-style disciplinarian?
Tom Leigh-Brand, Essex 
To be honest, those guys are a bit pigeon-holed. I'm sure Fergie does tactics like Rafa, and that Rafa can wheel and deal. I guess, though, I'd be like Fergie because I do have a pretty short temper, as you can see on the pitch. Who knows, though? What I do know is that I'll be wearing a suit. You have to if you're a manager.

"Listen, I'm not a f*cking wheeler d- wait, that's not my line"

You famously phoned up TalkSPORT after host Adrian Durham accused you of bottling it. How did it come to that? Did you phone Frank Lampard to say well done when he called LBC to have a go?
Chris McCabe, Chiswick
I was driving to training and heard them having a go. I know it's all juiced up to get people to call in but that day they did enough to get me riled too. I was calling everyone saying, "Get me the number" and when I finally got through, they didn't believe me. I had Micky Quinn calling me, saying is it really me? By the time I got on I was at Melwood and stalking the corridors having my rant. I never heard Frank's call and it was more personal, so good on him.

Do you ever find yourself humming "We all dream of a team of Carraghers"? Do you prefer that or the chant about your dad? Did you have to have a teenager-style word with Carra Snr when he got escorted out of Villa Park: "Dad, you are so embarrassing..."?
Charlie Parrish, via e-mail
I like the original song by The Beatles but no, I get embarrassed hearing it. I was at an awards ceremony picking up a gong and the crowd starts singing it, I turn around and my dad's joined in! I quickly told him to shut up. Other than that time, I never get embarrassed by my dad. He's a character – we need them.

The 2005 Champions League Final: at half-time you must have thought it was over? What was said at half-time and was there a point you thought, "We're going to do this"?
Jonny Carter, Swansea
Nothing special was said and the sole purpose of that second half was just about pride. At 3-2 I'm thinking we'll get another but then at 3-3 you're back to thinking, "Christ, we might lose this!"

You were in a no-win situation against Portugal at the World Cup in 2006 – was it your idea to come on just to take a penalty? Did you take the subsequent penalty too quickly because of nerves and having been made to retake it? Did you have a feeling you'd miss?
Ted Harris, Doncaster
I had done so well in training with the penalties, not missing one in five weeks. I put the ball down and just took it. The ref says he hasn't blown his whistle. Once I had to retake it I guess I was under more pressure. I went to the same side and he's saved it. I spoke to Michael Owen afterwards and he said when something like that happens you should always just smash it. Otherwise it's all mind games with the keeper.

It's gone in! England are through! No, wait...

What do Liverpool need to do to win the Premier League title?
Jamie Telson, Liverpool
A year ago, I'd have said not much! The squad needs to be stronger because when we're missing key players we don't have enough cover. The first XI is about right, but maybe we could do with a couple of top-class players and a few more squad players. I don't think we're as far off as some people think.

You serve Penne Carragher at your restaurant – was this named after your own take on the pasta dish? What's your specialty dish when guests come round?
Giles Milton, Beckenham
It's a mixture of pre-match ingredients for us players: pasta and chicken spruced up with a bit of bacon and sun-dried tomatoes. It goes down well. As for my dish, I have never cooked in my whole life. I haven't!

Who was better, 2001's Treble winners or the 2005 Champions League side?
Sam Woods, London
2001. Without a doubt. It was just a better team with better players. Simple as that.

When you were hit by a coin at Highbury in 2002, what were thinking after you lobbed it back into the crowd: "Have some of that" or "Bollocks, I could be in trouble here"? It can't be easy to hold back when someone has just tried to physically harm you...
Darren Hughes, Preston
"Have some of that, you cheeky b*stard" was exactly what I was thinking! There were coins all round my feet and I just thought, "Have that." As soon as I did it I began to walk, though.

Wayne Rooney once told FFT even he has trouble understanding you. Are you the most Scouse person you know? How difficult is it for the foreign players to understand a word you say? Which player had the most difficulty understanding what you were saying?
Ryan Edwards, Leeds
[Mock fuming]
 Wayne said that? That's rich coming from Rooney! He can hardly do an interview! He's more Scouse than me – so's my dad. The new guys don't understand me but they have to get used to it.

"Yeah, good one Wayne"

You had a bust-up with Alvaro Arbeloa during the game against West Brom last year: what happened? What else makes you lose your rag – traffic wardens, bad drivers, Gary Neville?
Barry Taylor, Liverpool
I was in the wrong but for the whole game I just felt he was switching off and getting too far forward. We'd been getting at each other for a few weeks. I wanted to keep another clean sheet for Pepe [Reina] and for a lot of the game [Daniel] Agger and me had been exposed. I was wound up and let him have it. He was a bit upset for a few days. As for what makes me angry, I get stick in my car. If someone says something to me or gives me the finger, I'll give it back. 

Why is it that a defender who was voted one of the best in Europe consistently couldn't get a game for England? If you'd been the England manager, would you have picked yourself over Terry, Ferdinand, Campbell and King?
Ian Kenna, via email
I've always said if I was picking the team I'd pick John Terry and Rio. The problem I had was when Rio got injured in 2007; we'd just played in the Champions League final, I was named one of the best defenders in the Champions League and I wanted the chance to play well and try and keep Rio out. I never even got the chance, and when that happened I thought, "Sod this." I was 29, I've been one of the best defenders in Europe for about four years, played in two Champions League finals and it's still not happening. Ledley was in and again I've no problem with that – he's a top player – but it felt like a losing battle.

If the England manager called and said "I'd like you to come out of retirement for the World Cup", what would you say?
Euan Hoskin, Wrexham
I'd love to work with Capello, but I'd say no. I read an interview with Alessandro Nesta, who's being asked to come back for Italy, and he said he couldn't because he'd be taking someone's spot who'd helped get them there. I feel the same. You can't just walk in when others have put all the graft in.

Interview: Leo Moynihan. Portrait: Jill Jennings. From the April 2010 issue of FourFourTwo. 


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