Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Carragher Wants To Manage Reds

Liverpool's rock-at-the-back Jamie Carragher, in an interview in the Mirror, reveals his dreams of masterminding a successful Premier League campaign, not just as a player but also as a manager.

Sir Alex Ferguson established Manchester United as the dominant force in England over the past two decades much to the detriment to Liverpool.

In its modern format Liverpool have never won the League title. Two FA Cups; three League Cups; one Champions League; and one Uefa Cup have eased the league disappointment somewhat but the 38-game campaign still remains the crown that scousers covet the most.

Speaking ahead of the launch of his book: Carra My Autobiography, Jamie Carragher shared with the Mirror his ambitions of winning the Premier League with Liverpool, and the joy he would have being the Red that masterminded knocking Sir Alex Ferguson off of his long, illustrious, silver-laden pedestal.

"It would be more of an achievement [to win the league] as manager because it would come about through my decisions," he said. Whilst acknowledging the United boss' achievements, any competitive ruthlessness Carragher bears to the head coach of his north west rival he insists is born out of obeisance, as opposed to abhorrence. "It's like the ultimate football man's dream to be better than Ferguson because he is the master. I just hope he hangs around long enough to wait for me."

He continued: "I've got more respect for Ferguson than anyone else in the game," and in a statement that is sure to rile the red side of Mancunia, he claimed: "He's like a Scouser, really. He's funny, doesn't mind telling people to f*** off, and he even votes Labour. I love him."

Concerning derby day emotion, and the felicity he extracts from defeating a club he once held so dear he said: "Losing the derby is worse than losing any other game. My passion has gone full circle. I was made up on the first day of the season when Blackburn scored that late winner at Goodison. We were getting ready to play Sunderland and it gave me a big lift."

There is a shocking rumour that floats around the streets of Liverpool that states the reason Jamie Carragher always plays with a long-sleeved shirt is because he has a tattoo of an Everton badge on his arm. The retired international defender adds credence to this whisper as he revealed: "I was an Everton fanatic right through my childhood and teens. Everton controlled my life and dominated my thoughts 24/7. I went to the away games, followed them across Europe and in the mid-80s went to Wembley so often it began to feel like Alton Towers."

"When I talk about that Everton team I still say 'we'. Even when I was playing for Liverpool reserves I'd want Everton's first team to win the derby every time," he added.

A dramatic change-of-heart occured though in 1999 when Manchester United defeated Liverpool at Old Trafford and then the scourse firm were handed further misery as they were knocked out of the FA Cup. The 30-year old, from Bootle, visited a local called The Chaucer and was unashamedly ridiculed and lauded as a 'dirty Kopite', leaving the current vice-captain 'drained and demoralised'.

"I couldn't take it, he said.... People who I thought loved me, were getting off on my misery so I turned around and walked out. They hadn't done anything wrong. They were just being themselves and they're still my mates. But it was over. When I walked out of that pub I turned my back on Everton for good."

His dereliction of all things Blue gained momentum when, on derby days, team-mates such as Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler would be subject to personal abuse. The former's relationship with his girlfriend is often hecked on the terraces and the allegations often border on libel.

"I hate what they sing about Steven and his family. It's disgusting and goes way beyond the kind of banter that's acceptable in life, not just football... Robbie suffered the same type of scandalous taunts which really hurt him and his family. I'm not saying Liverpool fans are blameless because they're not. They dish out abuse during games with our rivals too. But it ends when the game ends."

He continued: "Evertonians spread the lies around the streets of Liverpool and chant them whether they're playing us, Reading or Portsmouth. I even hear it on the telly when they're playing away in Europe and I think that could be my family they're singing about."

Carragher has strong family ties due to his own upbringing and the respect he has for his mother, Paula. The Mirror report that when Paula was pregnant with him she was informed by doctors that her unborn child had spina bifida - a neural tube defect - and was alerted to the fact that she could have an abortion, but Paula - a strict Catholic - turned it down. The original diagnosis of spina bifida was false though... he had gastroschisis - a congenital abdominal wall defect - and spent six weeks in hospital trying to stay alive.

"She was willing to bring up a disabled child and was prepared to sacrifice her life for me. I owe everything I've ever done in the past 30 years to that decision."

Growing up he had a tough competitive streak that lent it's way to confidence and cockiness as he quickly realised he far outclassed his early team-mates.

"I couldn't accept that others weren't as good and I couldn't get off their backs. I was always getting dragged aside by managers and told to treat my team-mates better. It still happens today. Rafa often pulls me up about being too harsh on other players."

He continued: "I've had to send a text message to Pepe Reina apologising for what I'd said during a game. I say things to players and afterwards think 'what have I done?' And sometimes after I've had a stand-up row I think 'do they hate me?' "But I can't let people around me switch off... If someone tells me what to do on the pitch there's a good chance they'll get told to f*** off. That's my job," he jokes.

Regarding the impact that foreign talent has had on the English game, Carragher believes in some ways it has benefitted greatly, but in others it limits the opportunities for the local youth to play for the bigger clubs.

"There's definitely too many foreigners in the game," he said. "What's the point of spending all this money on the academies if we're not pushing local kids through? Liverpool FC is our club. It's a big part of our city and you've got to give young aspirational Scousers the chance to succeed. It's not just football," he added. "I've got two brothers who find it hard to work in Liverpool - in the Capital of Culture. One of the reasons is we've made it too easy for foreigners to come here and take the jobs."

In a startling admission of choosing club over country, Carragher admitted: "If I was given the choice between winning the World Cup with England or doing what we did in Istanbul, I'd take Istanbul because I know how much it meant to Liverpool. People told me that we gave them the greatest night of their lives and if they died next week they'd die happy... That's some thought."

Carragher stresses the importance of loyalty, not just in the modern game, but also in life - he married his childhood sweetheart three years ago, but they have been together since he was 18. But this is an ethic that has translated to Carragher's club-life, and he reflected on the occasion when Gerard Houillier opted to bring in Stephane Henchoz and Sami Hyypia after a young Jamie had just been awarded Player of the Year, he said:

"I'd just been voted Player of the Year but didn't start the season very well and fans were calling for Henchoz to play in my position. I thought 'hang on, a few games ago I was your best player'. I was only 21 back then and I struggled to get my head round it... It angered me and it took a while to get myself together. Then eventually the fans started singing about dreaming of a team of Carraghers and I thought 'you weren't singing that six years ago'!

"I'm under no illusion. No matter what I've done over the years as soon as someone better comes along it'll be 'f*** Carra off'. But that's football. People go on about how loyal I am to Liverpool. But it's not a question of loyalty. It's a question of 'where am I going to go from Liverpool?' "We're one of the best teams in the world and I'm playing every week. I don't to leave Liverpool, but if Liverpool weren't that good and a great team like Real Madrid or Barcelona came in for me I might go, because I've always driven myself to play at the best level."

On his current and future ambitions he said: "I've got three years left on my contract and I want to be playing 50 games a season. There's competition for my place and I'm prepared to fight for that because I've been fighting all my life. There will always be technically better players around than me, but no-one will be able to match my passion or drive. I'll be fighting for another contract after this one and I'll be happy then to accept 25 games a season."

Rafa Happy To Concentrate On Football

Rafa Benitez is looking forward to concentrating on football after a hectic transfer window.

The Anfield boss added six names to his first-team squad during the summer, including the deadline day capture of Albert Riera.

That deal saw Steve Finnan go the other way to Espanyol, while Andriy Voronin left for a year on loan at Hertha Berlin.

Benitez believes the departures will benefit both players, and the Spaniard is now looking forward to an extended period focusing solely on football.

"It's important because we can now concentrate on football and preparing the team," he told

"Voronin needed to play, and with the competition we have got up front it was going to be difficult for him. Hertha Berlin are a big team, so it was a good move for him.

"Finnan was involved in the Albert Riera deal, so it was a good option for us.

"We signed Philipp Degen and have also got Alvaro Arbeloa.

"But Finnan has been a good servant to the club. He is a consistent player – that's important in any position, but especially full-back."

Mark Lawrenson: Albert Riera Appears Miles Better Than In His Manchester City Days

I remember watching Albert Riera playing for Manchester City a couple from times.

Back then I wouldn’t have paid you air miles for him.

But I also watched him in La Liga for Espanyol last year and he seemed to have improved a great deal. And he clearly benefited from playing every week, so if Rafael Benitez really sees him as the solution to his left-sided problem then he must give him a run of games.

If he doesn’t, then play Ryan Babel on the left and give him a run of games. Either way, he needs to stick with who he feels is best in a certain position and go with that because bringing players in for a spell then leaving them out just won’t work.

Who he prefers in that slot is his decision, but sticking Robbie Keane out there certainly isn’t the answer. The reason why Liverpool are desperate for width is because they need to stretch defences and create more space for the strikers to work in.

Then they will get the ball where they want it rather than having to go looking for it in deeper and wider areas.

Either way, it’s time for Liverpool to take more chances in league games. At the back, it’s not as if the defence and goalkeeper are useless and need protecting, they’re probably the best in the top flight.

So I’m hoping to see more draws converted into wins before it costs them like it did last season.

Liverpool Defender Jamie Carragher Admits He Could Walk Away From Anfield

Jamie Carragher has admitted that hecould - at some stage - leave Liverpool.

The 30-year-old defender has spent his entire career at Anfield but he told the Daily Mirror: 'People go on about how loyal I am to Liverpool. But it's not a question of loyalty. It's a question of "where am I going to go from Liverpool?"

'We're one of the best teams in the world and I'm playing every week.

'I'm not saying I want to leave Liverpool, but if Liverpool weren't that good and a great team like Real Madrid or Barcelona came in for me I might go, because I've always driven myself to play at the best level I can.

Riera Ready For Reds Challenge

Albert Riera did not consider joining another club after discovering he was a target of Liverpool.

The former Espanyol winger moved to Anfield on Monday as Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez paid an undisclosed fee ahead of the transfer window deadline.

And having completed his move to Merseyside, Reira, who had a loan spell at Manchester City in 2006, is looking forward to the challenge.

The Spain international will be charged with the task of ending Liverpool's problems on the left of midfield, but he welcomes the pressure.

"As soon as I knew they were interested in me I knew there was only one club that I wanted to sign for and thankfully it has now happened," Riera, who had also been chased by Everton, told Liverpool's official website.

"I know I will have to work very hard to get into the team because there are a lot of good players here but that is a challenge I am looking forward to.

"It feels really good to be a Liverpool player and I am really happy to be at this club.

"I am looking forward to working with the manager and the players."

Riise's Open Letter To Liverpool Fans

Roma’s Norwegian international full-back John Arne Riise has penned a heart-felt open letter to Liverpool fans all over the world following his transfer from Merseyside to the Eternal City this summer.

John Arne Riise, something of a cult hero among Liverpool fans during his seven successful years at Anfield, left the club in the summer for AS Roma as it became clear his first-team opportunities under Rafael Benitez would become increasingly restricted following the manager’s transfer dealings.

Now Riise has written the following letter, published on Liverpool’s official website,, to the Reds fans with whom he was so popular…

“Dear fans of Liverpool FC,

“After seven seasons at Anfield, it's time for me to "walk on". In many ways it feels inspiring and exciting to be familiar with the pressure of a new employer, meet new fans, meet a new culture and play a new kind of football. I look forward to this new adventure, but I travel with a loss.

“Because, it's not easy for me to leave you - the world's best supporters! I've been thinking about this almost every day this summer. After seven wonderful seasons, and more than 340 matches for Liverpool, I never had the opportunity to make a real and proper goodbye with you - the world's most motivating fans. You have always supported me and the team and I want you all to know how important you've been to me and the other players.

“I've been giving my "thank you" to the club, the staff and the players and they'll always have a special place in my heart. And this is my thank-you letter to all the fans out there that have been supporting me during these years. I will follow the team closely from Italy and will stay in touch with many of the players and many of my friends in Liverpool.

“With respect to the many hundreds of great moments I have experienced in red, it will be unfair to draw up one highlight rather than another. There has always been the highlight of wearing the red shirt at Anfield. It's always been a privilege to have the initials LFC on the space closest to the heart. As you all know I was a player who always, no matter what, gave 110 per cent in every training session and every game. I always tried to give you the entertainment you deserved. Even in the bad moments you were there for me and the team.

“To play in front of the red crowd, every minute has been a privilege. Even after my unfortunate own goal against Chelsea in the Champions League semi last April - where all our dreams were crushed - I felt the support and sympathies from you as real and important. When I signed seven years ago, I couldn't in my wildest dreams expect the journey you all gave me. I will always be grateful for that. A big thank-you to you all.

“I'm 100 per cent sincere when I say that I will always remember all the great moments we've had and you - our fans - have such great importance for these great matches and great moments. Liverpool FC will have a lot more great moments like this in the future and I hope that I will experience great things with my new team - AS Roma. I hope you will continue to follow my career.

“Therefore, I do not say goodbye, but so long. Arrivederci - Walk on!

John Arne Riise
"The ginger".

Kuyt Bemoans Injury To Torres

Dirk Kuyt concedes the loss of striker Fernando Torres is a major blow for Liverpool, with their next match at home to Manchester United.

Torres damaged a hamstring in the 0-0 draw at Aston Villa on Sunday, and the club have since confirmed the injury will rule him out for between two and three weeks - making it highly unlikely he will be fit to face the champions in the Premier League clash at Anfield on September 13.

Kuyt could well take a more central striking role in Torres' absence, and said: "Fernando is one of the best players in the world and obviously he will be a huge loss to us.

"But at Villa we handled the loss well. We re-grouped and showed tremendous team spirit.

"It is something we will have to do against United if Fernando does not make it."

Ian Rush: Reds Lost The Chance To Put Pressure On United

Any team that comes away from Villa Park with a point this season is not going to be disappointed – but I can’t help but think that Liverpool missed a big opportunity on Sunday.

If they had won the game, they would now be five points ahead of Manchester United and with the international break that gap could not have been closed until the two sides meet at Anfield on September 13.

It might still be early in the season and United do have a game in hand, but they would not have wanted to come to Anfield knowing that a defeat would leave them trailing by eight points.

Football at its very highest level is all about pressure, and the best sides are the ones who can deal with it the best.

United have certainly not been found wanting in this respect, but it would have been interesting to see how they would have coped with the knowledge that they could lose touch with the league leaders.

As it is, Liverpool did not do enough to beat Villa and that means United will not be under quite as much pressure, and I think that’s a shame.

Seven points from your first three games of the season is always going to be a good return and there are plenty of other teams in the Premier League who would love to have made as good a start as Liverpool.

Even though they are nowhere near their best, they have still managed to pick up points from some difficult games and that is definitely a positive.

But if they had just gone for Villa a bit more at the weekend I am sure they could today be boasting a maximum points haul and be top of the league on their own instead of sharing the leadership with Chelsea.

That is the next test for this Liverpool side and their title credentials – they have to start going to tough away grounds believing that they can win and doing everything they can to do so.

Too many draws stopped them from mounting a proper title challenge last season and they do not want the same thing to happen this time around, but they are going to have to start going for the jugular more if they are to turn draws like Sunday’s against Villa into wins.

Rafa Benitez is never usually happy when the international breaks come around but I’m sure he’s quite relieved on this occasion.

Losing Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to injury at the same time is obviously a massive blow but at least the blow is being softened by the fact that Liverpool do not have a game for a couple of weeks because of the internationals.

The two-week break means Torres and Gerrard can work on their recovery without missing games and hopefully they will both be back sooner rather than later.

But even if either or both of them have to miss the Manchester United game it is up to the other players to step up and prove that Liverpool can win without their star duo.

When I was a player, Bob Paisley was always telling all the lads at Liverpool that we had to make sure we were not found wanting whenever chances came our way.

That meant that if someone got injured you had to come into the side and do everything you possibly could to stay there.

That very same message will be being delivered by Rafa Benitez to those players he feels can come in and do a job if Torres and Gerrard are absent.

One of the big plus points to the way Liverpool have started the season has been the form of Pepe Reina.

There were a lot of people who wondered whether he would be good enough when he first moved to Anfield and I’ve got to admit I was one of those people.

But since then Reina has got better and better and he is undoubtedly one of the best around at the moment.

In the first few games of the season he has proved himself to be a match winner and when you’ve got a keeper who can do that it makes a massive difference.

Against Standard Liege he was Liverpool’s best player in both legs and the saves he made were the difference between going through or being knocked out.

Another thing I’ve noticed about Reina is how popular he clearly is with his team mates.

I first picked up on it during Euro 2008 when he made sure he looked out for all Spain’s players even though he wasn’t in the starting line-up. No doubt he is exactly the same with Liverpool and players like that are worth their weight in gold when it comes to building team spirit.

Arsenal Fail In £14million Liverpool Alonso Bid

Arsenal are reported to have had an eleventh hour offer of £14million rejected by Liverpool for Spanish International Xabi Alonso.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had been heavily linked with a move for the EURO 2008 winner all summer, along with the man the Anfield club had identified as the Spaniards replacement at the Reds, Gareth Barry of Aston Villa.

26-year-old Alonso had also been a target for Juventus and Turkish side Fenerbahce, where former Spain boss Luis Aragones is now the coach. However, there was no substance behind the Turkish rumours and La Vecchia Signora opted to sign Christian Poulsen from Sevilla instead.

This led to the Gunners making there last ditch bid to improve the midfield at the Emirates Stadium, but Liverpool have refuted the bid, with manager Rafa Benitez wanting more for the midfielder and being in no hurry to sell Alonso after skipper Steven Gerrard picked up an injury that will keep the England International out for a while.