It will be a disgrace if Jamie Carragher is called up by England this afternoon. He shouldn’t even be considered. This is the man who quit his country because he couldn’t get in the first team. Yes, let me say that one more time for full, ineradicable, reflexive effect: he quit his country because he couldn’t get in the team.
Yet here we are on the verge of taking this ‘stalwart’ to a World Cup.
Never mind that, if he hadn’t quit, he could have played a big part in England’s European Championship qualifying campaign under Steve McLaren in 2007, likely starting in games against Estonia, Russia away and Croatia to save our cause.
Never mind that he wouldn’t make a list of the top 5 defenders in the country this year, and as a consequence, nothing has actually changed regarding his chances of playing in the England first team.
And never mind that, in the aftermath of him quitting, he subsequently released a soporific book in which he practically insulted a shirt coveted by nearly every denizen in the land, a man who told Kenny Dalglish of his missed penalty against Portugal in 2006: ‘I would rather miss for England than LFC’ and repeated the motto, ‘At least it wasn’t Liverpool’ to himself whenever we lost, the man who said:
‘I confess: defeats wearing an England shirt never hurt me in the same way as losing with my club….
‘Losing felt like a disappointment rather than a calamity. I was never in love with playing for England in the first place. By the time I stopped I felt a huge weight lifting.’
No, here we are poised to take this redoubtable ‘man’ to the World Cup.
Surely the essence of playing for your country is not a question of individual, parochial concern or personal glory, but a service rendered to your home; your nation, your people? This from a man who castigates the foreigner who does not die for Liverpool FC in the manner befitting a fanatic, the player who nearly came to blows with teammate Alvaro Arbeloa in a match last year for showing anything less than total commitment.
One can’t really blame Capello, he may not know the history, scale and nuances of Carragher’s dereliction of duty. But still, listen to his comments at the launch of the ludicrous Capello Index – a nasty, absurd innovation that threatens the collegiate responsibility of a football dressing room – Capello said:
“I need to know the mentality of the group. It is really important to pick the players with the spirit of the group.
“You have to forget where you are from, which team you are from. You have to play for this shirt, for the spirit of the group. If you play you have to be happy. If you don’t play you have to be happy.
“If you go to the stand you have to be happy. This is a really, really important thing.”
Are you serious? This could have been released by an England manager as the perfect riposte to Carragher’s attitude after his book was released, but on the day before he announces the squad, will these words not ring in Carragher’s ears and his England teammates’ ears and make a mockery of his inclusion?
It’s a painful, painful irony and his inclusion must surely rankle with those other members of the squad; the players who have sweated blood and tears in England’s qualification and weathered the harsh gales of the English media and all the sensational criticism that inevitably follows an England poor performance.
But worse, Carragher’s decision to agree smacks of the worst kind of opportunism from an aging player who has suffered with his club this year, and now, smelling a chance for glorified redemption on a grandest stage, leaps at the opportunity to put a bad club season with his beloved Liverpool behind him.
He’s been average at best this year for his club, massively overshadowed by the far superior Daniel Agger, and anyway, given the nature of his style (I’m thinking the rugby tackle on Michael Owen when he was clean through at Anfield last October, and various other unsavory tackles) would be a liability in a World Cup surrounded by continental referees.
You might say he has managed it to some degree in the Champions League, but there are differences between the two competitions in the style of officiating.
Yes, when on form he can be spirited, dogged, and without doubt an asset – but his passions are at the core of his game; a heroism in the ‘blood and thunder’ vein of John Terry at his finest, but there’s a difference – John Terry cares about his country, and if Carragher does not feel passion for England, what’s the use of taking him?
He is OK in a positional sense, but tends to need last ditch tackles often because he is caught out on the turn. He is nowhere near the player Ledley King is, Dawson has had a far better season, and Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, if fit, are starters, so he’ll be in a position worse than the one he was when he threw his toys out of the pram last time. So what is he doing it for?
Over to you Jaime, tell us – the public and your teammates – now, because I for one, would rather take an average defender with passion for his country than a good defender with none. Quite simply, when we most needed you in 2007, you weren’t there for us, so why should we be there for you?