Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher today confirmed the leaked report from yesterday that he has told Steve McLaren he wants to bring his international days to an end.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo’s Chris Bascombe, Carragher said he wouldn’t leave England in the lurch should an injury crisis occur, but has given up waiting for a chance to impress and earn a place as a regular for England. He told Steve McLaren how he felt, that he was tired of being overlooked – especially for a centre-half place but also as a full-back – and was ready to concentrate on his domestic career. Now it seems this news has come as a shock to the England management who are said to have been trying frantically to persuade Carra to persevere with the England national team. They seem to have managed that at least until the next England game, which takes place next month against Germany.
Carra told the Echo: “I’m 29 now, and I have to accept if I’m not a regular starter at this stage of my England career, I don’t think I will ever be. It’s going to be difficult for me to be seen as anything more than a squad player, and that’s not what I’m interested in now. Playing the odd game here and there for England isn’t enough for me anymore. My first priority has always been winning trophies with Liverpool.”
Carra has confided many times in friends that despite feeling pride when playing for England he doesn’t see them as a priority. He confirmed this today: “I’ve always seen England as a bonus. With the club good enough to give me a four year contract, I want all my focus to be on Liverpool for the rest of my playing career. I’ve spoken Steve McLaren and explained my feelings, but I’ve agreed to speak to him again before England play Germany before I make a final decision. I’m not doing this to leave England in the lurch. If it’s an absolute emergency – and by that I mean if all available centre halves are out injured or there are suspensions – I probably won’t say no if I’m asked. I’ve committed 12 years of my career to England, but I’ve been thinking now is the time to concentrate 100 per cent on Liverpool.”
Carra says he’s been thinking about this for some time, and that although his recent omission from the side to face Estonia added more weight to his thoughts of quitting, his decision wasn’t based purely on that: “There are a number of reasons why I’ve been thinking about this. I first thought about it after the World Cup because I wondered how many chances I’d get for England at centre half. Then when Sol Campbell was out of the picture I thought I could put pressure on Rio Ferdinand for the other centre half position alongside John Terry. Given my form for Liverpool, I genuinely thought that was possible, but over the last 12 months players like Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King have played there ahead of me.”
Not that Carra is claiming he’s better than those two – just that if he’s got so many ahead of him in the pecking order how can he hope to break into the side on a regular basis? “They’re top drawer players. It’s not as if they’re Mickey Mouse defenders. Even in the last two games against Brazil and Estonia, England conceded just one goal, so people can argue the manager got his decision spot on.”
For Carra though it’s time to concentrate on Liverpool, that Estonia fixture making it clear and dispelling his doubts about whether quitting was the right thing to do: “It was particularly disappointing for me when Rio was out against Estonia and I wasn’t picked. I thought I’d had a good season for Liverpool, especially helping us get to the Champions League final, like any player I thought I deserved to play, but not doing so made the situation crystal clear to me.”
Carra sees his age as a big part of his decision: “Playing the odd game here and there isn’t enough. Four or five years ago I was happy to have that role, but not now. Recently when I’ve been asked to play at full-back I’ve found it a lot more difficult than I did when was doing it for Liverpool. It’s a physically demanding position and I didn’t think I played well against Brazil. It’s more tiring than being a centre back, particularly when you’re not as used to it as I used to be. I think it would be a good time for me to step aside.”
He also took time out to say that his decision wasn’t an attack on Steve McLaren: “I want to stress this has nothing do would Steve McLaren. It wouldn’t have mattered who was the England manager, I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’ve worked with Steve for five years as part of the England set-up.”
Carra isn’t happy to hurt anyone, and sees the chance to step away from the England fold as a chance to improve his work for Liverpool: “When you go away with England you get back to Liverpool on a Thursday and sometimes have a match early on Saturday. I’ve never liked the situation where I’ve not felt 100 per cent before a Liverpool match. Even if you don’t play in the international, going away and travelling can take it out of you. I’ll be happier when those breaks come around and I’ll be fresher for the Liverpool matches. It could add at least two more years on my career at the top level, and that’s uppermost in my mind.”
The Echo also quote a ‘senior England source’ as saying: “Steve McLaren has total respect for Jamie as a player and as a man and is still determined to do all he can to keep Jamie in the England squad.”