KENNY DALGLISH today paid a glowing tribute to Jamie Carragher after he announced his decision to retire from football at the end of the season.

Dalglish said the fact that Carragher has always kept his feet on the ground and put the supporters first was a key reason why he had built such a special relationship with Kopites over the past 17 seasons.

The ex-Reds boss and Anfield playing legend also admitted he was somewhat surprised by Carragher’s decision to stop playing for good this summer.

The Scot, who led Liverpool to a Carling Cup triumph and the FA Cup final last season, told the ECHO: “Jamie’s decision was a surprise to me – because he has just played as well as anyone against Arsenal and Manchester City.

“But he knows himself better than anybody and if he thinks it is time to hang up the old boots that is totally his prerogative. It is always a difficult decision for a footballer – as hard a decision as you can face as a professional.

“It is more difficult because playing is the best part of your career – especially at the level he has played at and is playing at. That makes it so much more difficult to retire. But it’s Jamie’s shout, his call.

“I’m just surprised. I thought he had a bit left in him yet.”

Dalglish also paid tribute to the Reds’ vice captain’s desire and ability to lead by example.

He said: “His leadership on the pitch has been so important to Liverpool Football Club.

“He’s been an unbelievable servant for the club, both on and off the pitch. We can only be grateful for the wonderful service he has given to Liverpool.

Added Dalglish: “The fans hold him in such high esteem because they can relate to him.

“Everyone who has played football has had a bad game at some time but he has never once had a bad attitude. The fans will always stand by you if your attitude is correct – and Jamie’s has always been spot on. No one could ever doubt that.

“We just have to be grateful that Liverpool has had a servant like Jamie. As a local boy it is always special and Jamie is a local boy who has never once got carried away with it all and who can relate to the supporters.

“That’s really important.

“It is not as if he has breezed in and breezed out. He is interested in every one of the Liverpool supporters and has always had a very special affinity with them.”

Dalglish was manager of the Reds for the first time back in 1987 when Carragher joined Liverpool’s books as a schoolboy striker.

He said: “I was in charge at Anfield the first time Jamie came to the club at nine years of age. I remember him well in those days as a centre-forward – they used to train at Netherton and my own son Paul was there at the time.

“I also remember him scoring on his Anfield debut in 1997, which was obviously a very special moment for him.

“It is always a disappointment when it all comes to an end – he will have wanted to play as long as he can.

“I am not sure if he has any ideas about what he wants to do next but I am sure the door at Liverpool Football Club will always be open to him.”