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Sunday 22 July 2018

It's hard to take the high ground when you've been as stupid as Carragher

MADNESS: Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire.
MADNESS: Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire.

In all the time I watched Jamie Carragher play for Liverpool, I never once felt I was looking at a dirty player - or one capable of such a monumentally stupid act as to spit at somebody.

Rightly, the act of spitting is considered to be about as low as you can go on a football pitch, or anywhere else for that matter, as Carragher is finding out.

Only he knows what came over him when he allowed a man clearly intent on provoking him to get under his skin.

If nothing else, it shows how deep his passion for Liverpool runs that he would abandon all restraint and spit from the window of a moving car.

But there is no excuse, no mitigating factor that I can see which might let him off the hook. If anything, Carragher is doubly-damned because of what he does for a living.

If you set yourself up on the high moral ground in football and set standards of behaviour for everyone else, an act as crass as this cannot be ignored or forgiven.

Wonderful

Remember Frank Rikjaard? Wonderful player but in my mind and many others who were alive to see it, I find it hard to forget that moment when he spat at Rudi Voller during Italia 90.

I'm amazed Carragher did it, to be honest. I'm certain there have been many other occasions which tested his temperament much more than this.

In every game he played for Liverpool, there was somebody in the stands shouting worse things at him and he learned to deal with that. But for this one, he cracked.

I always saw him as the solid citizen managers need to anchor a defence and if he wasn't in the class of a Hansen or Lawrenson, he was still a part of a great tradition of top class centre-backs at Anfield stretching back into time.

He was an honest player and traded on this when he went into the world of punditry.

Now, his reputation has been destroyed and I find it difficult to see how there is a way back for him. It will be hard to sell himself as the tough but reasonably fair analyst he has been up to n ow.

I have some sympathy for Carragher but it would be an extraordinary double-standard if Sky allow him to continue his hard-edged critique of the Premier League.

I mentioned a month or so ago that I had sensed a distinct change in the way the Sky pundits have been talking this season.

As an example, Jamie Rednapp and Gary Neville described Antonio Conte's approach to playing Manchester City as "a crime against football" and "disgusting" respectively.

This was so far over the top that I couldn't take either of them seriously. What Conte tried to do could never be described as "disgusting". What Carragher did was exactly that and yet Neville can find it in his heart to forgive.

I'll bet Conte will allow himself a quite smile about Carragher's misfortune and the rush by Neville and many of the former Liverpool skipper's colleagues to excuse him this sin while he was preparing for tonight's huge Champions League clash with Barcelona.

Conte has been on the receiving end for months now and I haven't seen any attempt by Neville or indeed Carragher to explain why that is the case. Their criticism has been unbalanced and unfair.

Frustrating

The Chelsea boss has done everything he could do to hold things together in excruciatingly frustrating circumstances and yet, his team still has a chance against Barcelona after a 1-1 first-leg draw.

So far, he hasn't cracked under the kind of pressure which Carragher will never experience in a television studio, even though Conte has been pushed to the ragged edge.

It says a lot about his character that he can still hold his head up at this point in a desperately difficult season and feel that he has done himself justice.

It's something Carragher certainly cannot do right now.

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