Football Expert & Columnist
Off Script: Jamie Carragher and the club versus country debate
"Club was much more important to me, there's no doubt about that. My focus as a fan was always the club, and as a player was always the club. That will never change"
Last Updated: 04/03/20 12:27pm
In the latest edition of Off Script, Jamie Carragher looks back at how his dedication and commitment to Liverpool often clashed with his international duties with England.
Carragher earned 38 caps and represented England at three major tournaments, but even he would be the first to admit his achievements at club level surpassed those on the international stage.
A nine-trophy haul was Carragher's reward for his selfless devotion to Liverpool Football Club, a mindset that rings true to this very day but one which he acknowledges may have hindered his England career...
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'I never thought about England'
The positions Liverpool and Manchester City find themselves in, in the Champions League still, I don't think they should be thinking about Euro 2020.
I never thought about England, at all really.
With a tournament on the horizon, I wouldn't think about looking after myself for England. I used to listen to other players in the press talking about World Cups months before, I found that disrespectful to the clubs they were playing at.
'I couldn't get my head around Sven's reception'
Carragher's breakthrough on the international scene in 1999 was quickly followed by Sven-Goran Eriksson's appointment as England manager, and the Swede's subsequent parade-like tour of the country that left Carragher scratching his head…
The biggest thing that used to wind me up was the fact that when Sven-Goran Eriksson became England manager, he almost did a tour of the country - him and [his assistant] Tord Grip seemed to get clapped into stadiums.
People knew where they were going to be before the game and you would have players in the press saying they wanted to impress Sven, whereas I was like 'go and impress your own manager, make sure you're in your team next week'.
I remember being at Upton Park, and there was a lot of those young West Ham lads that went on to have great England careers. I remember people talking about Sven before the game and I couldn't get my head around it, I didn't like it.
A north-south divide?
I don't know if it was a north versus south thing. I wouldn't go as far as saying players at the London clubs were obsessed with England, but I always felt playing for England was a big thing for them.
To be in the squad, then play for England was a big thing, almost bigger than playing for your club, but I always felt growing up in the north of the country that no one was thinking about England.
To be totally honest, when I was growing up, supporters of clubs in Liverpool weren't bothered if their players played well for England, they just didn't want them to get injured.
Success with club or country?
If you asked me now if I'd rather have swapped Liverpool winning the Champions League in 2005 with winning the World Cup with England in 2006, I'd rather have won the Champions League in 2005 with Liverpool.
If I had to pick between Liverpool retaining the Champions League this year or England winning the Euros, I'd rather Liverpool retained the Champions League - 100 per cent.
'Maybe my mentality cost me caps'
Perhaps that is why I didn't have a good England career. I'm proud of what I did for England, but it was average and maybe, looking back, I could have done more and maybe that was because it wasn't the be-all and end-all. Club was much more important to me, there's no doubt about that.
Maybe I didn't achieve as much for England as an individual - more caps, more starts - because of my mentality that the club was the be-all and end-all.
I missed the 2002 World Cup because I played on through an injury for Liverpool for about three or four months from Christmas onwards and I needed a knee operation in the summer.
A lot of people may have looked at that and thought I was stupid and should have had the operation in January to be ready for the World Cup, but my mentality was no, I'll play for Liverpool and then been fit for the start of next season for Liverpool.
Should Kane and Rashford rush back?
Carragher offers his assessment of Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford's respective races to be fit for this summer's European Championships...
I think the situations Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford find themselves in are slightly different to mine. I understand from their positions they will be looking ahead to the Euros, because even if they come back for their clubs, they may only play the final few games of this season.
But if I'm being totally honest, I think both players will look at any games they can play before the end of the season as a mini pre-season in terms of getting back for England. So I think they will try and get back, get some time on the pitch to help them for the summer.
And listen, I'm not trying to dismiss England at home in a European Championships. It's huge, it's almost a home tournament and we had great success back in 1966 and Euro '96.
It's a great opportunity and I'm sure English players will want to be involved and sample that. I watched Euro '96 as a kid and the 2018 World Cup as a supporter, it was brilliant, the country was bouncing.
I'm not saying I don't want England to do well, I hope they do, but my focus as a fan was always the club, and as a player was always the club. That will never change.