Everybody knows about the massive impact Jamie Carragher has had on Liverpool FC.
Since signing his first professional contract back in October 1996, he has proved to be the heart and soul of our team. His performances have always displayed the highest levels of effort, courage, commitment, passion and determination. With world class leadership skills, Carragher has been the beating heart of our defence.
Best of all, Carragher is a scouser, so he understands our fans better than anyone, being a passionate red himself. He knows exactly how big this club is, what it means to our fans and will literally sweat blood in his quest to make our club successful. No game is too small for Carragher and no ball is a lost cause.
Even now, after 16 years of loyal service, Carragher’s passion and commitment hasn’t dwindled, despite the fact he has lost his place in the starting XI.
Carragher believes he still has plenty to offer Liverpool and most will agree. The fact remains though, that he is 34 years old and his best footballing years are behind him. There is no getting away from the fact that soon, we will be left with the daunting task of finding a replacement to fill the huge gap that Carragher will leave behind when he does indeed decide to retire.
Some people will probably be thinking, “Who could possibly replace Jamie Carragher? He is a legend and it doesn’t matter how much we have to spend on a replacement, nobody will ever come close because Carragher has qualities that are rarely found in footballers nowadays.”
Of course, Carragher’s retirement will be a massive loss to Liverpool Football Club but we might already know of somebody who could possibly give Carragher a run for his money. That someone is already on our books and his name is Martin Kelly.
Kelly joined Liverpool youth team when he was just 7 years old, so he has grown up with Liverpool Football Club. Throughout his years at our Academy, Kelly has always shown huge potential and he was rewarded in 2007, when he was offered his first professional contract.
Although Kelly has yet to consolidate his place in our starting XI, he has shown on many occasions that he is more than capable of playing at the top level. When he has been called upon in the past to deputise, he has never let the team down and his performances have impressed so much that many people have been left wondering why he hasn’t been selected more frequently.
His game has a small resemblance to Carragher’s in the sense that he knows how big the club is and he realises how lucky he is to be wearing our shirt. Kelly isn’t fazed by any opponent or any game, no matter how important it may be and while he is on the pitch, he is willing to chase down every ball and throw himself 100% into every tackle. The qualities that Kelly has displayed already are very impressive and at 22 years of age, he has plenty of time to improve.
He also has an attacking element to his game. When he has replaced Glen Johnson at right back, Kelly has deputised in a way that often makes Johnson’s absence seem irrelevant. He bursts down that right wing and isn’t afraid to run at players and create chances.
Kelly has been selected for England U19’s, U20’s and U21’s in the past and when England defender Gary Cahill was injured in the run up to Euro 2012 this summer, Kelly was selected to take his place in the senior team and although he didn’t actually make an appearance in the tournament itself, the fact he was selected over defenders who play week in, week out for their clubs speaks volumes about his talent and potential. He will have learnt a lot from his experience training with the senior squad in Poland and the Ukraine and will no doubt, come back to Liverpool a better, stronger and wiser player this coming season.
Whether Kelly starts many games this season remains to be seen. Much will depend on transfers and of course, injuries. If he plays regularly, few would complain. If not, we know we have a quality, committed, versatile player on the bench in Kelly.
Even if he is not used too frequently in the league, he could have a huge role to play in the cups this season.
There is no doubt we will see a lot more of Kelly in the coming years though, as he continues to grow. His hunger to play and win games and leadership skills are already reminiscent of a young Jamie Carragher and the fact that Kelly is also a scouser is just an added bonus.
Of course, we love to have a Kop legend and we have seen many of these come and go over the years but when it is a local lad who has forced his way through the ranks and into the Kop history books, it is always that little bit extra special because us scousers are very patriotic and proud of our city and our roots.
Robbie Fowler has done it, Steven Gerrard has done it, Jamie Carragher has done it and I would not be surprised if Martin Kelly did it too.
Kelly may well prove to be a rare, world class treasure like Carra in the coming years. He certainly has the potential and this, aided by the guidance of both Brendan Rodgers and Carra, could really start to blossom in the next few years.
Watch this space…