There has been something of a rash of books from English footballers of late and as such, seeing one from Jamie Carragher did not excite as much attention as those from his more celebrated colleagues of club and country. But with 'Carra' we get a good insight into the man who could be defined as Mr Consistency who was for so long, an unsung hero. It is honest, well written and above all else a thoroughly good read.
Firstly I must start by saying that (unlike so many band wagon jumpers) that I have always been a big fan of Carragher as a player. Long before Istanbul elevated him to hero status I had his name on the back of my shirt and would argue with anyone who cared to debate how he should be in England's starting line-up whether at right back or centre back. However, once you leave the 0151 area, his fans seem to be thin on the ground, especially at international level and as such, his story is very interesting in that it has never been properly told like this.
The first thing that Carragher gets right with this book is he avoids the trap of a moaning 'rags to riches' tale. Yes, he grew up in Bootle, a deprived area to the North of Liverpool but he freely admits that while being firmly working class, he was never wanting as a child and had two parents who looked after him well. It would have been so easy to go on at length about the poverty around him but he sidesteps this to his credit and exemplifies the spirit of Bootle; salt of the earth good people, rich in character and spirit if not in the wallet.
The next thing he gets right is the layout of the book which avoids the mundane chronological path of telling his story through the years and focuses on specific topics of interest. This works perfectly because just about any reader of this book will know that it tells the tale of someone who came through the academy, broke into the first team, played his way into fans and managers' favour, had one helluva night in Turkey in 2005 and never really found himself at home with the England team. We know all that anyway, and so he takes the smart decision to go into detail about the finer points of all of these events.
The effect is that we finally learn about his history as a diehard Evertonian and how he made that transition, we learn about what really happened with Gerard Houllier, and how he went from being such a success to a shadow of a man at the end. We learn about the difficult early days of Benitez and Carragher's strained relationship with the England team. All of these events give a wonderful insight into the life and times of one of Sefton and Liverpool FC's favourite sons.
Carra truly gives you the picture of a man who has never been allowed to get above himself. Whether it was the strict discipline of managers like Houllier and Rafa, his father throwing boots at him for ducking out of a schoolboy game to avoid the rain or his wife who seems like the anti-WAG, he always seems like what every school boy dreams of being: Just a fan being paid to play football, chasing the glory at every turn and not that interested in the gold, just the silverware. This book captures that story brilliantly.
The highlights are literally strewn throughout the book but always centre around him either pulling no punches on subjects like his real feelings on England, deliberately injuring players who mocked him or on the escapades of someone who you know is a bit of a reformed Scally. Some tales of misdemeanours are hysterically funny precisely because they have that classic air of Scouse mischief rather than villainy.
Forthright and honest, well-written and hilariously funny in places, Carra is a superb book which Liverpool fans will love and plenty of others should really enjoy simply for the great story it tells, and the wonderful way it tells it.