The inclusion of Jamie Carragher in Fabio Capello’s provisional 30 man England squad has caused a fair bit of debating amongst the amateur squad selectors and pub pundits the length and breadth of the country.
Since his decision to exile himself from international selection in 2007, it is fair to say Carragher has barely been missed. The Liverpool stalwart had won a rather sparse total of 34 caps, spread across eight years before he announced his decision to quit the international scene. Carragher was never an automatic choice for any England manager, and a combination of other strong defensive candidates and reservations about his lack of pace at international level meant he was regularly overlooked despite his brilliantly consistent performances for his club. Now, after three years in the wilderness and on the back of a less than wholly convincing domestic season, Carra looks like he will be given a slot in the final 23 for South Africa.
Amongst some fans there are still grievances that Carragher should not be selected after turning his back on the national team. That should not even be an issue. What matters is that when approached, when asked to report for duty, when his country needed him, Carragher was there, and he needs to be there in South Africa. What is of a more pressing matter is whether he is now up to the standard of a World Cup place. His form for Liverpool has not been of the standard Kop fans have been accustomed to, but again there are mitigating factors. The overall decline of the team has highlighted flaws all over the pitch, and after losing the screening of Xabi Alonso and the steady hand of Alvaro Arbeloa, Carragher’s defensive unit has been more exposed and vulnerable than in previous campaigns. When isolated, Carragher can been troubled by pace, but as the old adage goes – the first yard is in the head. Similarly to John Terry, these defenders are pro-active rather than re-active, and their experience and intelligence means they can usually avert any danger by using their vast savvy rather than their not so vast speed.
Also similarly to Terry, Carra is at his best when able to dominate an organised defensive line. Some of his finest games have been those in away European ties such as Barcelona and Juventus, when flanked with support, his stoic efforts have rebuffed wave after wave of attacks. If England find themselves a goal up in the last twenty minutes of a knock-out game, there are few better options to plug a gap than the 32-year-old scouser. What Carragher’s selection also does is potentially free up a space elsewhere. His versatility means he could easily do a job anywhere across the back, and at a push in the anchor role. The modus operandi for a World Cup 23 is to take eight defenders, given that Carragher can fill three defensive spots, there is the option to only take seven defenders and bolster the attacking options with an extra man.
Given that Carragher is a defender of proven quality, he is fit, virtually bullet proof, has the heart of a lion, is dependable, can play in more than one position, has impeccable temperament and desire, has a decade of top-level experience behind him and will not be overawed with any task or occasion he is faced with, there is not much discussion. Carragher goes.