In January 1997, I was sat in the Main Stand at Anfield watching Liverpool beat Aston Villa in a comfortable 3-0 victory. Little did I know that the 18 year old midfielder who had marked his first start for the club by scoring with a header from a corner would go on to become one of Liverpool’s all-time greats. That player was Jamie Carragher.
Today Jamie Carragher had his testimonial match, with a Liverpool team containing players Carragher broke though into the first team around the same time (David Thompson, Steven Wright), former fan favourites (Luis Garcia, Danny Murphy, Jason McAteer, Michael Owen and Gary McAllister), current stars (Ryan Babel, Joe Cole and for ten minutes Steven Gerrard) and some young players on the fringes of the first team. Emile Heskey also played! The team that Carragher supported as a boy, Everton provided the opposition, sending a pretty strong team over.
Testimonials almost seem out of place in the modern game, particularly for Premier League players. The testimonial harks back to the days when a footballer’s wages were not that different from those of the regular working man and players would often end their football career unable to retire on the money they had made throughout their career. Testimonials were meant as a thank you from the fans for a particular player’s, who had given at least ten years service to the club, retirement and the game was meant as one last big pay day that would help that player financially whilst they found a new career.
In the Premier League era testimonials are extremely rare. Players nowadays don’t need the money, having often earned millions in their careers, and more importantly most fans don’t believe they deserve to get another large sum of money on top of what they have already earned in their career. Also in the post-Bosman rule era of football, it’s very rare that a player gives ten years service to one club as it is often more lucrative for him to move to other clubs.
Most modern testimonials of Premier League players are now mostly staged in order to raise money for charity. This started when Sunderland striker Niall Quinn had his testimonial in 2002, the gate receipts of which were over £1 million. Quinn donated the entire amount raised, via his charitable foundation, to children’s hospitals in the UK, Republic of Ireland and India.
All the money raised from Carragher’s testimonial and a gala dinner will go to Carragher’s ‘23 foundation’, which helps underprivileged children. Carragher has also donated £25,000 to Everton’s charitable foundation, the Everton Foundation to thank them for their involvement. Over 35,000 people attended the game today and it is hoped that over £1 million can be raised.
That was only part of the reason that Carragher testimonial was so well attended. Jamie Carragher is an enormously popular player with Liverpool fans, especially because he is a local lad who has given his entire career to Liverpool and has always given 100% effort in every game.
The game itself finished 4-1 to Liverpool with Carragher scoring penalties for both teams! Steven Gerrard was released from England duty to play the opening ten minutes. The goals were scored by Luis Garcia after 2 minutes, Carragher scored a penalty just before half-time. Everton were awarded a penalty in the second half and Carragher surprised Yakubu by running up and converting it himself! Joe Cole scored his first Anfield goal and Nathan Eccleston rounded off the scoring.