Carragher taking break after life spent in trenches
As the tributes to his career multiply ahead of his Anfield farewell this May, several images will linger in the greatest hits package of Jamie Carragher's tackles, blocks and last-ditch interventions.
Inevitably, all roads will lead to Istanbul in 2005, when Carragher's cramp-ridden body gave way following another timely lunge. One of those occasions was the most poignant.
This was not one of those pains provoked by denying Andriy Shevchenko or Hernan Crespo in extra-time of that exhausting evening.
It was when Carragher was on the podium alongside Steven Gerrard, the captain's chief lieutenant about to take his rightful place on the iconic picture that would be wired around the world.
As Gerrard took the trophy and the red ticker tape showered the jubilant Liverpool squad, Carragher (right) moved towards a prime position when his body gave way. While he was creased up in agony, the emblematic photograph placed Gerrard alongside Spanish reserve Josemi.
Carragher was the Liverpool legend unseen, somewhere in the background, nursing the aches and pains of putting his body on the line for the club.
Quite fitting, really, as until recent years that's pretty much how his Anfield career was panning out. Carragher did what Carragher always does and was expected to do. Played consistently well, fully committed, wherever a succession of managers asked him to. No fuss, no histrionics, no niggling calf and thigh strains causing the occasional absences.
We rather flippantly describe this as 'bravery' and 'commitment'. Actually, it's rather more in Carragher's case. He actually thinks it's embarrassing to miss a game through injury. From his early days he has repelled the idea of being unavailable, mortified by the prospect of having to receive treatment on the pitch. Only the most severe knocks sideline him.
He admits this stemmed from a fear of losing his place, in his early years noting a succession of defenders signed with the intention of turning him into a squad player.
Carragher told Brendan Rodgers of his decision to retire last week and appeared ready to announce the fact towards the end of the season. The announcement was brought forward because he sensed news of his decision was about to leak out. After more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, Carragher wants at least a year outside the game, in which his family – he and wife Nicola have two children, James and Mia – can dictate the course of the household's plans.
Although many think he will become a coach and future manager, the appetite is not yet there to do so.
It is at Anfield on a match day the void will be felt most. "We all dream of a team of Carraghers" the Kop will sing for just four more months.
Once he's worn the red shirt for the last time, they'll be even more appreciative of the one they had. (© Daily Telegraph, London)