Carragher fears fresh Mersey derby Wembley heartache
Published 21:31 13/04/12 By David Maddock
Jamie Carragher has to suppress an involuntary shudder when he recalls his early Wembley experiences.
The pain is still as raw, the despair still as unending, and most of all, the tears still as real as the day when an eight-year-old Carra travelled back from the famous old stadium after watching his beloved team lose to their greatest rivals.
The twist to the story, of course, is that this truly legendary servant of Liverpool, this Anfield great, was a boyhood Everton fanatic who travelled across Europe to watch them play.
Carragher was there when they lost to their Merseyside neighbours in the FA Cup final in 1986, and again thre years later, when the red half of the city emerged triumphant, and his chief memory is of crying most of the way home.
More than 20 years on, the pain is something he never wants to go through again.
"Hopefully, I won't come back crying this time. Everyone knows I was an Evertonian as a kid and I went to those finals, but now the boot is on the other foot," Carragher admitted as he contemplated Saturday's all-Mersey semi-final.
"I went in 1986 and 1989, and like I said I really don't want to go through that emotion and come back crying this time.
"I was the biggest Blue in Bootle. Everton controlled my life and dominated my thoughts. And losing the derby is worse than losing any other game.
"But I think this game is brilliant for the city. It's been a long time and I think it's going to be a great day out for everyone.
"Obviously, the result matters - it's massive for both teams. But in terms of going down there, I know what it's like for everyone - organising where they're going to stay, who they're going down with, the whole build-up.
"I just hope we can put on a great game and also show the country what the two sets of supporters are like and hopefully make it like it was in the Eighties."
It is still hard to imagine one of the greatest players in Liverpool's history being an Evertonian.
Carragher is second in the Reds' all-time record books for appearances behind another legend, Ian Callaghan, and Anfield runs through his veins.
It is little wonder then, that he will go to Wembley determined to enjoy the experience whether he wins or not, or even whether he plays or not, given that, after more than 20 years, he is finally no longer an automatic choice.
There is a sense within Carragher's heart that his time at Anfield may be coming to an end, but he argues that is not the reason he will try to take in every frame of Saturday's experience with an almost photographic eye.
"To be honest, it's not my age. I have always thought like that - you have to approach these big games like there may not be many more," he explained.
"Of course, my age makes it more of a reality but you never know when you are going to play in these games. We went six years without winning a trophy, so that is why I tried to enjoy Cardiff [who Liverpool beat in February's Carling Cup Final].
"I know I have this season and next season left on my contract. This gives me a chance to play in as many big games and win as many medals as I can. You have to enjoy the moments while you can."
Carragher could lose his place in the side this afternoon to the returning Daniel Agger, and even though that will hurt like hell for such a passionate football man, he is surprisingly pragmatic about it.
"I would be disappointed, but that was the case when I was seven years of age and that would be the case next season. I have always had that passion - that makes me the player I am," he insisted.
"I want to play and I will never be able to change. I would be disappointed on Saturday, but I was disappointed before the Cardiff game. We won and I got on [as an 86th minute sub].
"You never know how the game is going to go. I might start, I might not start."
One thing he won't do though, is follow the lead of so many professionals these days, and spit the dummy out if he doesn't get what he wants.
"I would never think about moving on, even if I'm not playing. I am sure I'll be here, though you'll have to ask Kenny," he added.
"It's been a different season for me, but that season was always going to come. I will probably play around 30 games. That's without Europe. There will be Europe next season as well.
"I know I am not first choice but I am there always to try to do my best for liverpool and help the club to do well."
That means suppressing the latest Everton uprising, no matter what he childhood dreams of seeing the side he loved triumph at Wembley.
And with Carragher in the side, Liverpool will have a better chance of overcoming the old enemy.
In his time at Anfield, he has enjoyed an enviable record against the Blues - something he explains wasn't always a given when he was a kid first attached to the club.
"I can remember that before me and Stevie [Gerrard] got in the team, we couldn't beat Everton and we didn't just get beat by Everton we got bullied by them," he explained.
"So that is one thing that has changed over the last 15 years.
"They might beat us on Saturday I don't know but I think the days of Everton bullying Liverpool.
"It was the Dogs of War and things like that. It is always a tough game against Everton, but at that time it was pretty embarrassing for Liverpool supporters getting bullied.
"That is something that has stopped over the last 15 years and hopefully that will continue to be the case after the weekend."