There will be plenty of time for Liverpool to dissect this season. There will be moments of quiet contemplation and intense, microscopic analysis; moments to assess what went right, what went wrong and just why everything happened. There will even be an attempt to define progress and decide whether Brendan Rodgers has achieved it. But not now; not on this day. This, from start to finish, was Jamie Carragher’s day. On his 737th and final appearance, his name was read out last by the pitch-side announcer before kickoff.
What more can be said of Jamie Carragher? What words, candid or cliched, can do justice of his 16-year Liverpool career? Like many strikers who have faced him over the past decade-and-a-half, futility abounds. Alas. Plenty of words have been tossed about during his final week as a professional footballer. There is reminiscence of Istanbul, of the sweat-stained, cramp-infused grimace which became a cramp-stained, sweat-infused smile; there are memories of other trophies too, of the treble winning season, his 2006 FA Cup win and recent Carling Cup success.
Brendan Rodgers is still learning. That, an admission from the Liverpool manager himself this week, is confirmation of something evident to all in the early days of his Anfield career. Whether he truly has learnt over the past nine months, and what has been learnt in that time, is a debate set for the summer. It will take months to conclude -- there is little need to start it prematurely. - Ferguson heaps praise on Carragher But the acknowledgement alone shows that Rodgers' first season has been an education of some sort: honesty is always appreciated more than gasconading and glorifying, after all.
Philippe Coutinho is 20 years old. Sit back and ruminate upon that. It might make you happy, it might make you sad; it should definitely make you question what you were doing at that age. Whatever is was, it cannot match up to running football games with a nonchalance not seen in years. - Match report: Fulham 1-3 Liverpool - Delaney: Sturridge strikes point to exciting future Twenty years old. To say the world is at his feet is not quite apt, for everything is at his feet anyway, almost always.
Looks are more deceiving in football than most other things in life. Take Craven Cottage, home of Fulham. Though the walk along the Thames is pleasant and the stadium, fraying by the game, appears quaint and inoffensive, it can become anything but. Beneath the solemn, modest exterior is home of some of the wildest parties -- away support, intoxicated with pride and alcohol, is always that little bit louder, that bit more vibrant on the banks of the river. Most games at the Cottage, irrespective of the visiting team or the magnitude of the fixture, will be played to the backdrop of quasi-melodic glee.
The secret, it appears, is out. The treatment by Liverpool Football Club to the residents of Anfield has been brutally -- and expertly -- mapped out by The Guardian’s David Conn. If words could kill, this is the smoking gun; nearly 3,000 words which expose how the club have bought houses near the stadium for two decades, allowing them to remain empty and promote stagnation, dereliction and decline in the area. Except the secret is not really a secret. Not for those who have seen the daily deterioration of the area; not for those who have walked up Walton Breck Road on days when no football is played, snaking up and down the side streets paved with tin.
On the short, sharp blast of the referee's whistle, bedlam broke out amongst the Everton fans. Hugs, high-fives, clenched fists raised in the air. It was a celebration worthy of a title-winning performance; of a 90 minutes which finally ended the Blues' 14-year itch since beating Liverpool at Anfield. The reality was far, far different. No titles were won, no long-standing records broken. This was a 0-0 draw, a whimper which surmises the seasons of both. Despite the raucous celebrations from the away end, there is nothing to celebrate.
This is the week of the Merseyside derby. This week is the week when only those intoxicated by alcohol or pride make predictions with any true conviction and confidence. This is the week hyperbole swirls over the River Mersey and looks linger on the back pages of the local newspaper that little bit longer. This is the week of anticipation; anticipation of seasons being defined, of moments and memories -- good, bad, ugly -- being created forever. - O'Farrell: Top five Everton derby goals - Battle of Mersey pride - Gerrard: Suarez going nowhere But this week, the week of its 220nd installment, has been bereft of such build-up.
There will be plenty of baseless predictions ahead of the weekend's Merseyside derby, but in amongst them is one cast iron certainty: Both sides of the Stanley Park divide will look upon the 90 minutes with bias and irrationality. The final result is immaterial. If Liverpool take three points, many Everton supporters will find a way to apportion blame to match officials and those in red. An Everton win brings similar ire from their city rivals. Rare common ground in a derby of dichotomy. The Merseyside derby is a fixture traditionally brimful with incident, so opportunity aplenty to contort every twist and turn.
Of all the questions asked about Luis Suarez in the past week - both bite and ban - there was one posed with voices more hushed and worrisome than any other: How does the one-man team survive without the one man? Trick question. Liverpool have not been a one-man team this season, despite Suarez's 30-goal haul and general wizardry with the ball. His distinction as Liverpool's best and most influential player is not in question, but he has not been alone in impact -- particularly since the arrival of Philippe Coutinho in January.
So this was the week that was, the week that will be no more. The week Paradise was lost and man took a firm, frustrated chunk from that forbidden apple so ripe; the week politicians commented on a sport they detest instead of engaging in discourse on matters far more important. This was the week where tribalism let out its visceral roar to back a failing institution, and would have done regardless of sanction. The backing will not remain of course -- it never does -- for their disengagement and detachment stretches far further than the suspension of one player.
Before the scythe of denunciation slices through Luis Suarez and the agitation over his 10-game ban begins, a disclaimer to the dyspeptic: What the Uruguayan striker did was wrong and all the hysteria could have been avoided if he had chosen not to show his teeth, but the reaction has been disproportionate. So too is the ban handed to him by the FA. He deserves censure and disapproval, not castration and deportation. Children do not bite other children because of Suarez but because they are naughty children.