Jamie Carragher started off his footballing career at the FA School of Excellence in Lilleshall in his youth and signed a professional contract with Liverpool in 1996. After winning the FA Youth Cup final with Liverpool’s Under 18s, Carragher also played for the England Under 21s and Liverpool kept a close eye on the young defender’s progression. He got his debut for the Merseyside club in January 1997 replacing Rob Jones in a Coca Cola Cup tie against Middlesbrough. It was only another three days before he made his first Premier League bow, coming on as a sub against West Ham. His first start was not long in coming either as a week later he was in the starting eleven for the match against Aston Villa. He made his mark in the match, scoring a header from a left wing corner just after half-time to help Liverpool to a 3-0 win.
His typical style of passion, work rate and versatility which would make such a valuable player later on in his career, helped him attain regular appearances for the majority of the 1997/98 season. He could play at right back, left back, centre half, and midfield and this meant that manager Roy Evans could use him as a utility player. He made 20 starts and three substitute appearances during his second full season at the club and this was only going to get higher as his career went on. After Gerard Houllier took over as sole manager in the 1999/2000 season, his appearances increased to over 40 as he became a regular starter at full-back. Carra would be an essential part of the team that would win a unique cup treble in 2001, winning the FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup as he made 58 appearances mostly at left-back. The cup wins were Carragher’s first senior trophies and he would go on to gain even greater medals later on in his career.
Some of the trophies arrived early on at the start of the 2001/02 season as Gerard Houllier’s side lifted the Community Shield and the European Super Cup, making it an impressive five trophy haul in 2001. Carragher however began to have some injury problems between 2002 and 2004. Before the 2002 World Cup, Carra picked up a knee injury which kept him out of the tournament and in the 2003/04 season he was out for six months with a broken leg after a tackle from Lucas Neill. New signings Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise threatened to take his place in the team during this time but despite his problems he managed to make 24 appearances in Houllier’s last season in charge.
After Houllier’s sacking in the summer of 2004, there was some uncertainty about the direction of the club but the first season under Rafa Benitez would be era defining moment for both Liverpool and Carragher. One of the first things the new Liverpool manager did was to play Carra ostensibly as a central defender. The move paid off handsomely for the Spaniard as Carragher and Sami Hyypia struck up a formidable partnership which helped Liverpool to the Champions League final. He made two last ditch tackles while suffering from cramp in extra-time and helped Liverpool achieve the magnificent feat of winning the club’s fifth European Cup after winning on penalties. He was unsurprisingly named Liverpool’s Fans Player of the Year, and is constantly described as “Mr Liverpool,” wearing his heart on his sleeve and having a never-say-die attitude. Carragher had evolved into a strong, uncompromising, positionally aware centre-back who could anticipate runs of strikers without the need for incredible pace.
Another good season followed in 2005/06, lifting the European Super Cup after captaining in the absence of Steven Gerrard and he would later go on to win another FA Cup, beating West Ham on penalties in the final despite Carra scoring a 21st minute own goal. Yet more achievements came for the defender the following season, breaking Ian Callaghan’s European appearance record with 89 in the second leg of the Champions League Semi final against Chelsea before appearing in his second European Cup final, this time losing to Milan. After signing a new four year contract in the summer of 2007 he became only Liverpool’s twelfth player to make 500 appearances for the club and was given the captain’s armband by Steven Gerrard to honour the landmark against Luton in the FA Cup. Another milestone came in another famous victory after he made his 100th European appearance in a win over Inter Milan in the San Siro. Despite last season coming close to his first league medal, after winning every other club honour in the game, time is running out for the 32 year old to achieve what every Liverpool fan wants, the Premier League trophy.