“Mentally and physically drained and demoralized, I turned around and went straight home.”
There have been several famous players who grew up supporting Everton before going on to represent Liverpool. Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Steve McManaman, Adam Lallana and Ian Rush are among those who supported the Toffees before switching allegiance after they joined Liverpool. However, it is fair to say that none of them was a bigger Everton supporter than Jamie Carragher.
“I used to love them, but there are things about the club I can’t stand now.”
Before he went on to play 737 games for Liverpool, Carragher was ‘the biggest Blue in Bootle.’ As a child with his Everton-loving father and brother, he travelled to Toffees games home and away and would celebrate when their Merseyside rivals slipped up.
Yet, an incident a couple of years into his Liverpool career ended his association with the blue half of the city. “I used to love them, but there are things about the club I can’t stand now,” he wrote in his autobiography in 2009.
Reporter ?"So were you a Liverpool fan?" ?
Carragher ?"No Everton fan" ?
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) July 7, 2020
Carragher says that he originally ‘only wanted to play for Everton’ and left Liverpool’s academy to do so, but soon realised he had ‘made a mistake. Over time, his love for Everton was eroded.
He went from the club’s biggest supporter to wanting to beat them more than any other team he came up against when a Liverpool player. The abuse some of his teammates received from Everton supporters accelerated the process, he says.
“Naturally, my love for Everton receded.”
“At first I still liked Everton and wanted them to be performing well, but increasingly I became less tolerant,” he writes.
“The transformation from loving them to openly wanting them to lose took years to complete. But when I saw some of my best friends suffering as a result of revolting abuse, naturally, my love for Everton receded. Anfield called me. It was my professional commitment and personal friendships that finally took my heart from Goodison and positioned it slap bang in the centre of The Kop.”
However, when Carragher started playing for Liverpool’s first team, he was still a Blue.
He speaks of a potentially embarrassing incident when he was first on the bench for Liverpool, when he gave his father a thumbs-up after the Everton score was called out on the tannoy at half-time.
“I could see from the way my dad’s face turned a rather unattractive shade of beetroot he was livid.”
“The first time I was named sub for the senior team was an away fixture in Middlesbrough in 1996, and even then my mixed loyalties couldn’t be hidden,” the former England defender said.
“At halftime, I was warming up with the other subs as the latest scores from elsewhere were being read out over the tannoy. Everton were winning 2–0 at home to Newcastle. It was the day Alan Shearer was making his debut for the Geordies, so I was pretty impressed by the Blues’ efforts. As I was going through my routine, I spotted my dad, who’d come to the front of the stand.
“He was eating a meat pie as the halftimes were announced and I made the mistake of giving him the thumbs-up to show my approval of the Everton score. Had they been paying any attention, a few thousand Liverpool fans in the away end might have seen how happy I was too. It wasn’t the most diplomatic way for an up-and-coming player to curry favour with his own supporters. I could see from the way my dad’s face turned a rather unattractive shade of beetroot he was livid.”
“Coming home on the coach was, to that point in my career, the worst feeling I’d known in football.”
The incident that finally ended Carragher’s affiliation with Everton happened in January 1999. Liverpool lost to Manchester United in a dramatic FA Cup tie at Old Trafford. The away team took the lead early in the game through Michael Owen.
However, two late goals from Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent Man United through and they went on to win the Treble.
Carragher played for Liverpool that day and was crestfallen. Following the defeat, he went to his local, which was full of Everton fans, to drown his sorrows.
“Coming home on the coach was, to that point in my career, the worst feeling I’d known in football,” Carragher writes.
“That was the moment the journey finished.”
“I headed straight to The Chaucer to drown my sorrows, hoping I’d see a few sympathetic mates. I knew I was going to take some punishment, but I thought most people would feel sorry for me.
“Perhaps I should have known better. As I walked through the door, there was laughter. Friends, people I’d grown up and travelled around Europe with following Everton, didn’t think twice about treating me like any other ‘dirty’ Kopite. I stood there for a brief second unsure what to do. I could have brushed it off, sat down, ordered a pint and taken my medicine with the help of the much-needed lager I’d craved all the way down the M62. That’s what I’d do now, but not then. Mentally and physically drained and demoralized, I turned around and went straight home.”
“That moment exposed how much my allegiances had changed and how I was now perceived by my own friends. It had taken me ten years to walk those few symbolic miles across Stanley Park from Goodison to Anfield, but without even realizing it at the time, that was the moment the journey finished.
“I was turning my back.”
“There was a time I would have been sitting with my Blue friends initiating the laughter at the Liverpudlians’ expense, just as I did when I saw the Arsenal graffiti in 1989. Now I wasn’t a fan, but someone who’d been toiling for his team only to see the biggest win of his career stolen in the worst way possible. When I walked into The Chaucer that evening I was heading for a collision with my own past, and a glimpse of what would have been my future if I hadn’t been lucky enough to be a Liverpool footballer. I didn’t like what I saw.
“As I made my way from the pub and into the Marsh Lane drizzle, I wasn’t walking away from my mates at the bar, who were perfectly entitled to have their fun. I was turning my back on that bitter Blue eleven-year-old who’d celebrated Michael Thomas’s winner. I was turning my back on Everton.”
Carragher says that he maintains a love for the Everton team of the 1980s, which won the league in 1985 and 1987 and were Liverpool’s main rivals. But he can separate his support for that team and his love for the modern Liverpool, a club he represented across three decades in the Premier League.
“There are two Evertons in my life,” he writes.
“The Everton before Liverpool, and the Everton after. The club I loved in the 1980s and the team I see now are poles apart in my mind.
“I refer to the Everton of the eighties as ‘us’ and the modern Everton as ‘them’.”
Originally published on 15 July 2020.