Carragher chief casualty in retreat from wasteland

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The Independent Football

When Jamie Carragher first produced a wallet in front of the childhood friends he still socialises with in Bootle he was taunted so mercilessly for betraying his working-class roots that he was given no choice but to dispense with it in the nearest bin. He has not possessed one since. By those rigid standards the Liverpool defender will never live down his appearance at the Beckhams' Full Length and Fabulous dinner in Hertfordshire last week but, unlike his initial brief at Old Trafford last night, he was at least given a full night to reinvent himself on that occasion.

No one was more surprised than Carragher himself when Sven Goran Eriksson sprang his latest selection experiment and promoted the 28-year-old from the periphery of England's central defence into the midfield holding role that he has not occupied at club level for nine years. And probably no one was more astonished than Carragher when, in the penultimate game before the World Cup, that experiment was given only 45 minutes to prove itself.

Carragher was the easy choice to replace Gary Neville when he succumbed to injury at the interval and his subsequent accomplished performance at right-back, combined with England's ability to convert a David Beckham cross in the second half, will have left Eriksson feeling vindicated by his decision. But this was an international friendly, and here was a formation supposedly designed to compensate for the loss of Wayne Rooney by granting more freedom to Steven Gerrard, so why not allow the new-look midfield time to develop and Carragher to become accustomed to his job?

Carragher has never claimed to be the saviour of England's midfield. His impeccable awareness of danger is more suited to surveying a game that is played exclusively in front of him. The defender needs to command from the centre, and he gave Eriksson no reason to bring his contribution in that area to such an abrupt end.

Two surging runs out of midfield produced two rare openings in an otherwise lacklustre first half for England, the first for Beckham and the second almost finding Michael Owen with an excellent cross from the right. Inevitably, however, it was on the defensive that Carragher shone, disrupting a multitude of Hungarian breaks with the precision he displays at Anfield and giving England a more impenetrable look than usual. While that effectiveness continued in the second half, this was an opportunity wasted.

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