Liverpool: Jamie Carragher should be punished but not cast out

The Sky Sports pundit’s behaviour, in spitting at a motorist and his young daughter, was abhorrent. But that should not mean he is forever damned.


(Photo credit: md.faisalzaman)

The retribution came swiftly, as Jamie Carragher no doubt expected. 

When news broke late on Sunday evening, accompanied by video, that the former Liverpool defender had spat at a fellow motorist in the aftermath of Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over his old side on Saturday, Carragher will have been acutely aware of what was to follow.

Sure enough, by early afternoon on Monday, Carragher had been removed from Sky Sports’ coverage of Manchester City’s trip to Stoke City later that evening. He had been slated to cover Manchester United’s hosting of Sevilla the following evening for Danish channel TV3 Sport. That, too, was hastily wrested from him.

Though not sacked, or at least not yet, it leaves Carragher with plenty of time to reflect on his actions. Certainly, some introspection is required. Whatever the invective coming his way, his decision to respond via the medium of saliva was one which has rightly been met with disgust. 

Claims from some observers that they would rather be punched than spat at suggests they’ve not experienced the former but, regardless, it remains that Carragher’s actions were wholly distasteful and uncalled for.

The case for exoneration

Yet, whilst the decisions to suspend him temporarily from his punditry duties were the right ones, some perspective is required. Carragher made a significant error in judgement, that is without question, but his subsequent response should not be ignored.

Where others may have opted for reticence, perhaps resorting to the old ‘speak to my lawyer’ trope, Carragher fronted up almost immediately. As the video of the incident made its way across the social media airwaves, Carragher was already on the phone to the father and daughter involved, professing his sorrow. 

As Monday morning rolled around, he found himself accosted at Euston Station by baying journalists. There, again, he apologised and confirmed he would “apologise properly” to his victims again later that day.

By Monday’s end, he had even appeared on Sky News, where he was made to view the video detailing his indiscretions and field further questions about his behaviour. Here again, Carragher was clearly rueful of what had unfolded and unable to offer a logical explanation. He had, he said, suffered from “a moment of madness.”

Done and dusted?

All done and dusted then? Not quite. 

Unsurprisingly, with Twitter awash with wags and wagging fingers alike, the usual suspects were out in force. On TalkSport, Joey Barton, of all people, took to the air to lay into Carragher’s behaviour. He was then upstaged by none other than Vinny Jones, that bastion of calm and reason, who perhaps didn’t see the hypocrisy in being outraged at Carragher’s actions whilst simultaneously claiming he would have taken it upon himself to beat the you-know-what out of him had the spit been aimed in his direction. 

Meanwhile, over at the Sun, Britain’s least reactionary newspaper readers voted overwhelmingly in favour of Carragher being sacked from his television posts.              

None of this is to excuse what happened at the weekend. Carragher’s initial apology offered the view he had been “goaded 3/4 times” before his temper boiled over. That was disappointing, as it suggested he was seeking to rationalise his actions. Thankfully, by the time of his Monday questioning, he had ditched that line. 

Six of one, half a dozen of another

Much has been made of the fact that the driver goading Carragher was separated from the former England defender by his daughter occupying the passenger seat. 

Carragher claimed not to have seen the girl there, a claim tough to verify. What isn’t so difficult to confirm is that the 14-year-old girl is the only one of the three people involved who comes out of this without looking foolish. Carragher’s choosing to spit was foul, but one must question the thinking behind the girl’s father.

After all, this is a man who took time out of his drive to not only provoke Carragher, but also to film it whilst operating the wheel of his car. Worse still, far from being concerned that his daughter may have just been hockled on, the man seems almost pleased when he realises what has just happened and the fame it is likely about to afford him. 

Listen closely and you can hear the cash tills ringing inside his head. Mercifully they are soon drowned out by his daughter’s begging of him to stop filming. Newspaper polls on whether or not the father should be subjected to a £60 fine and three points on his driving licence have been unsurprisingly slow in arriving.

To err is human

Winding up and filming a former footballer doesn’t quite merit being spat at but what the fallout from the weekend has shown is just how unrealistic many people’s expectations of celebrities and public figures are. 

Carragher, whilst enjoying a high profile role and the salary that comes with it, remains a human being. That, by extension, means he is not infallible. Just like the average man on the street, he is prone to lapses of concentration, to moments when emotions boil over and he loses control of his better demons. 

Suggestions that ‘he should be used to it’ because he was once a top-level player don’t really tally with the fact that everyone has their breaking point. They are also usually propounded by people who seem to live in a world in which perfection is not only attainable but readily on show.

Enough is enough

Carragher is now set for talks with Sky about his future as one of the broadcaster’s most visible figures. Their decision to suspend him was the right one: his position means that such actions cannot be easily brushed under the rug. 

Second chances are fast becoming a valuable commodity in today’s perennially outraged society, but suspension is as far as things should go. Carragher is an asset to football broadcasting and, even if he weren’t, this incident wouldn’t merit his exile. 

He has erred, just as we all do. He has apologised and seems genuine when doing so. That should be enough.

What do you think? Has Jamie Carragher been overly vilified for his actions? Let us know by commenting below.

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Chris Weatherspoon

Chris Weatherspoon is a football, cricket and boxing writer. Based in the northeast of England, he has written extensively on the travails of Sunderland AFC, contributing a regular column to the A Love Supreme fanzine and frequently appearing on the Wise Men Say podcast. In November 2017 he published 'Short-Changed', a look at the last twenty years of the club's history.

More widely, he has covered football for When Saturday Comes and In Bed With Maradona. He also writes a monthly boxing column for Big Write Hook.

You can find him on Twitter: @christoph_21.

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