HAVING recently received an honorary degree back home, Jamie Carragher’s education is continuing on the pristine fields of Harvard University.
The long-serving Liverpool centre-back is setting out on the 17th season of his professional career at Anfield.
Carragher stands on the brink of a special landmark – his next competitive appearance will be his 700th for the club he has served with such distinction.
Yet as he draws breath following a gruelling training session in the Boston heat, it’s clear the 34-year-old’s hunger and passion burn as bright as ever.
Carragher is a true student of the game and the lectures he’s heard from Brendan Rodgers, the sixth Liverpool manager he has played under, have been well received.
The Northern Irishman has made a big impression on the Bootle-born defender – whetting his appetite to be part of the new era dawning at Anfield.
“I’ve only known him two or three weeks and he’s been fantastic with me, but also all the players, especially the young kids,” Carragher said.
“Brendan is very much a coach, and it’s great to see him out there. Even at my age you never stop learning.
“There is always a certain degree of disappointment when a new manager comes in because it means it hasn’t worked out for the previous one, whether it was Roy, Gerard, Rafa or Kenny.
“I’ve learned a lot from him already because although he is relatively young he has been a coach for 20 years. I’ve learned from the way he talks to players about what he expects, even those who are not in my position.
“If I’m picked, I’ll know exactly what he was expecting from the other players so I’m learning all the time. It’s not just what he’s saying to me, but everyone.
“When a new manager comes in it’s fresh and new. There is more enthusiasm because people are trying to impress a bit more and it’s a clean slate.
“I’ve learned a lot from the manager over the past few weeks and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more over the next 12 months. Ronnie Moran once said to me at 65 you never stop learning so I have still a lot to learn at 34.”
Much has been made about the style of play Rodgers is looking to install at Liverpool.
There has certainly been more ball work so far in pre-season with the emphasis on keeping possession.
But Carragher insists this isn’t a radical new way, it’s simply a variation of the Liverpool Way.
“Normally you have your football work and your running,” he said.
“This time it is all incorporated in one, so you have the football all the time. We joke that it’s what you call disguised running.
“All the elements have been blended into one thing rather than separated out, so we’re working really hard physically, but any footballer will tell you it’s better when you’re with the ball.
“Everyone is focusing on the training but it can be a little disrespectful to what has gone before to say it’s a big change.
“We are Liverpool and we have always tried to play that way in training, but there has been a slight difference to the normal pre-season. Everyone has their own way they want to do things.
“It’s fantastic to have a manager who has these ideas about wanting to pass the ball. But it’s not like we’re going from being a long ball team. We’ve always had that in our history and in our DNA. We’ve always been a club who play good football.”
What is certainly different is Rodgers’ intention to play 4-3-3.
“Players will need to adapt and quickly learn what’s expected of them in a system which the Spanish have used to dominate world football.
“You can’t say we’re going to play like Spain or Barcelona,” Carragher continued.
“Number one, we haven’t got the players. But there are times when a team comes along and it changes how people think about football.
“There’s no point us saying we want to do exactly what they do, but we want to incorporate some of it with some of your own style. We’ll be playing a similar system to Barcelona, that’s true, but we don’t have Xavi and Iniesta.
“There’s nothing wrong with trying to incorporate what the best team do, but we have different ideas and we’re in a different league.
“I think systems are important but it’s still about players and them having the confidence and the belief to get on the ball and play.
“We tried 3-5-2 under Roy Evans and had some success with that. Now we’ll be playing a system the club has probably never tried before.
“But good players should be able to understand it – it’s about passing the ball, movement and different angles. That’s what Liverpool have always done or tried to do.”
Carragher spent the summer working for ITV as a pundit at Euro 2012. He won rave reviews for his honest and intelligent analysis of matches but he’s not ready to settle into life watching from afar.
The vice-captain may no longer be a guaranteed starter at Anfield but as he enters the final year of his contract he’s determined to be ready and waiting when Rodgers needs him.
“The Euros was really enjoyable for myself to be there talking about football and meeting different people who are nothing to do with Liverpool,” he said.
“Sometimes you are in a bit of a bubble at Liverpool. But talking to Roy Keane about Man United, Gareth Southgate at the FA and Roberto Martinez who is a Premier League manager, there were lots of different ideas, influences and opinions.
“The fact is I’ve got a year to go on my contract and whenever the manager calls upon me I’ll be there, wanting to play and wanting to do as well as I possibly can for Liverpool. That’s always been the case and nothing will change this year.
“It’s up to the manager when he picks me, what games he thinks are right for me. He’s the boss and he makes the right decisions. You’ve always got to respect the manager’s decisions.
“I wouldn’t say getting a new deal is my motivation. My motivation is to play well for Liverpool, for Liverpool to win games, hopefully get a trophy and get into the Champions League.
“It’s about playing as many games as I can for Liverpool this season and see where we go from there.”
Carragher is keen to ensure the Reds maintain the current feelgood factor around the club to make a flying start to the new season next month.
Champions League qualification will be tough considering they were 17 points adrift of fourth place last term, but the defender insists they have to aim high.
“We should be looking to challenge for the top four,” he said. “It won’t be easy as you look at the competition for those places now.
“For us to get into the top four someone has to drop out. Look at the teams in it, who is coming out? Chelsea weren’t in the top four this season and they are having a blast with the money they’re spending.
“But I think it’s realistic we should be challenging and of course we want to be getting in it. We want to be in there fighting against the good teams, we won’t want to be getting to January/February looking like it’s not going to happen.
“The league form has to improve but we still want to do well in the cups. We had some great days to remember last season. We beat Everton at Wembley, we went there three times and won a first trophy for six years. Those are things we want to build on.
“The last few weeks have been great but we can’t keep saying that training has been great. We need to take the enjoyment and enthusiasm the lads have shown out on to the pitch.”