Carra’s confidence booster to team-mates

Liverpool defender and all-round hero Jamie Carragher has been dishing out the praise to two of his team mates who both need the praise, but for different reasons. New boy Daniel Agger has been steadily finding himself picked more and more this season as he seems to be heading towards becoming the permanent replacement for Sami Hyypia. Carra knows that Agger’s excellent performances won’t be harmed by some encouragement from the vice-captain. At the other end of the spectrum is Carra’s fellow scouser and fellow academy graduate, captain Steven Gerrard. A fully-fit and fully-on song Steven Gerrard is good enough to almost give the team an extra man, but his confidence has suffered this season. Carra know that Gerrard’s goal on Saturday, his first in the league, will be the first of many if Gerrard can keep his confidence levels on a high.

So Jamie spoke of how much he’s enjoyed seeing Dane Daniel settle in at the club: “Daniel Agger has come in and done superbly. It’s a tough position because it’s a bit like a goalkeeper in that if you make a mistake it’s probably going to go into the back of the net, so the way he has been playing has been superb. Ever since he has come in he has looked like a typical Liverpool centre-back, going back to the days of Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen, and he is very good on the ball.”

Carra’s hopeful that Agger can emulate Jockey and Lawro in other ways too, and he’s not talking about TV punditry: “Hopefully it won't just be about playing like them, and he can win the trophies they won as well!”

Next on Carra’s praise list then was the captain. And Carra had some very high praise for the Reds number 8: “I think Stevie can be the best player in the world, and I am not just saying that because he is my mate or because he plays for Liverpool. I said last season that I wouldn’t swap him for Ronaldinho – who, like Kaka, is a great player – but I wouldn't swap him for Stevie. I do not think that by taking Steven Gerrard out of the team and putting one of those two in, they would make a bigger impact than him.”

High praise indeed, especially when you consider how much time Carra spends studying football from all over the world. He says that Gerrard’s impact couldn’t be any greater: “He cannot do much more. He has won the player of the year, been the captain of a team that won the Champions League and has scored in the final of the Champions League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA Cup. There's not a lot more he can do except get his hands on the Premiership title before he retires from Liverpool. He would get into any team in the world. If you were picking a world 11, he would get into it no problem.”

Liverpool fans are hoping Gerrard gets to lift a Premiership title or two well before he retires, but some awful results away from home this season mean it’s looking like being at least another 18 months before that happens. At home, though, Liverpool are hard to beat, especially now that Gerrard is getting back to his old self again: “I thought that Stevie, not just for the goal, was outstanding and was by far our man of the match. Even in the first half when we found it tough, he was all over the pitch. There has been a lot of talk about him not scoring goals but it looks like he is back on the goal trail now. But he is a midfielder and should not be judged on just his goals but on his all-round game, and that's not been a problem.”

As well as praising Agger and Gerrard, Carra also looked to find some words of encouragement for the team as a whole. He’s now hopeful that they are back to the level they were at last season: “We hope we're getting back to the form of last season, but there's nothing worse than talking about it and not doing it. We can judge that at the end of the season, but what we did last season will be difficult to achieve again.”

Saturday’s win of course included another clean sheet, and that’s what Carra says his colleagues at the back are judged on, and he revealed his target in that respect: “If we can get close to 25 clean sheets for the season, then that will be good. It is similar to strikers, they want a goal every other game and we should be looking for a clean sheet every two games.”

Liverpool’s position in the table is deceiving in that they are in ninth place, but are actually just three points from third. They host fourth-placed Portsmouth on Wednesday and would be able to get into the top four if they win against the team from the South coast. Carra is aware of the importance of that game on Wednesday and how a win would boost confidence: “Everyone knows we’ve not had the greatest of starts in the Premiership, but we’ve been doing very well at home and we’ve another home game on Wednesday. The teams around us are quite close, so if we can get a good result on Wednesday and some of the teams around us drop points then that can put us closer to the top four.”

As for the excuse (or reason, however you prefer to put it), that Liverpool’s fixture list has given them all the tough games in the first half of the season, Carra has an answer to that: “We did have difficult fixtures at the start of the season, but we are Liverpool and we should be a difficult fixture for the opposition. We’re disappointed with those results but we’ve got to look forward now and the only positive is that a lot of those tough games are now out of the way.”