A team of Carraghers
On the day that Jamie Carragher joins the Sky Sports team, Chris Burton reflects on the glittering career of a man set to make the switch from pitch to pundit.
Last Updated: 30/04/13 11:22am
"We all dream of a team of Carraghers", so sing the Kop in homage to a man who encompasses what it is to be a Liverpudlian turning out for your home-town club.
Carragher's boyhood allegiance to the other side that lurks about the city is well documented, but you would be hard pushed to find anyone more committed to the cause than a man who has spent his entire professional life turning out in red.
I am not a Liverpool fan, but you do not have to be to appreciate what Carragher has done throughout his Anfield career and what it means to Liverpool supporters to see a local boy done good representing them with such distinction for the best part of two decades.
Every team needs a Carragher - hence the song - someone who appreciates how much the performance of a select few means to those who shell out their hard-earned cash to follow them to the ends of the earth.
In a football-mad city like Liverpool, that pressure is intensified to the nth degree, with broad shoulders required to carry such a burden while maintaining a certain standard every time you cross that white line.
There are many who feel they would relish the responsibility - every fan in the country feels they could do the business for their chosen club if they were given the opportunity to prove their worth - but in reality only a select few are capable of doing the business.
Liverpool are fortunate to have had two on-field leaders within their ranks during the modern era, with Carragher a willing general to field marshal Steven Gerrard.
He may not make the headlines that Gerrard does, or has, but his role in the team is just as important and his mere presence has at times helped to dig Liverpool out of a hole or twenty.
Never one blessed with searing pace or game-altering distribution, Carragher is a footballers' footballer - someone who has made the best of what he has and never gives anything less than 100 per cent.
That is why he is adored so much on the red half of Merseyside and is so well respected by the wider sporting community.
There have been better players at Anfield than Carragher - plenty of them - but they have come and gone while Carragher has been a constant throughout.
Consistency and hard work have taken him to the top of his chosen profession, earned him countless winners' medals - including a much-coveted UEFA Champions League prize - and 38 caps for his country.
Not a bad return for a kid from Bootle, and one who once said of himself: "People call me a 'classic scally' and I take that as a compliment. I mean, that's what I am. I'm an ordinary lad who's been fortunate and done well at football. I AM a bit of a scally. A bit of a laugh. Rough around the edges."
The time has now come for that 'scally' to call it a day, at the age of 35, and - as he has made a habit of doing down years - Carragher appears to have got his timing spot on.
As much as his mind was probably telling him he could play on for a few more years, there comes a point when the body just will not do what the brain tells it to.
There is only so long you can put everything on the line before your body eventually packs in.
Carragher is by no means a spent force - he has proved that since returning to the Liverpool side over recent weeks - but he is not the player he once was, and he knows it.
Bowing out at the top is something few performers - not just in sport - get the opportunity to do, with many reluctant to walk away from the only thing they have ever known. They drag their feet too long, end up slipping out of the limelight and tarnish a reputation they worked so hard to earn.
Carragher will not make that mistake.
Fittingly, Liverpool's final game of the 2012/13 campaign - Europa League challenge aside - is due to be staged at Anfield against Queens Park Rangers on 19th May.
Shifting tickets is rarely an issue for the club, but they can expect there to be added demand for that particular fixture.
Hopefully Carragher will be able to steer clear of injury between now and then and will find himself in a position to bid a fitting farewell in front of the Kop.
Legend is a term bandied around far too often in sport nowadays but, to those of a Liverpool persuasion, a man fully deserving of such an accolade has entered the final throes of a glittering career and can look forward to putting his feet up in the summer safe in the knowledge that his efforts will never be forgotten.
Liverpool may not have been able to field a team of Carraghers, but the one they have had will leave them with many happy memories.