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12th Mar 2018

Jamie Carragher’s actions were revolting, but television needs him now more than ever

"So, while the daughter who found herself surrounded by two immature men deserves all our sympathy, some of us will extend the sympathy to ourselves if Carragher’s suspension is made permanent and he is replaced by one of those anodyne careerists whose mission statement is to say nothing."

Dion Fanning

At the end of rivalry weekend, Jamie Carragher’s explosion of rage and spit seemed to demonstrate that sometimes hostility isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Carragher has spent the time since the story broke in a whirlwind of apologies which never seemed less than genuine.

He apologised to the family who he had spat at from his car following the United-Liverpool game on Saturday, but still some are calling for him to be dismissed from Sky Sports because of the incident.

When the video ends with the daughter of the man who filmed it remarking that Carragher’s spit had landed on her face, it is hard not to be stunned at this bonfire of the vanities, this modern media story that will soon see the pundit suspended from Sky Sports and appearing on Sky News to agree with the presenter who describes his actions as ‘disgusting’.

Those who call for his dismissal would seem to have a case. Nobody can excuse his actions, yet it would be wrong for Carragher to be removed from Sky Sports because of this regrettable episode.

Television and Sky Sports need Jamie Carragher more than ever right now. Whoever at Sky phoned in the idea of ‘rivalry weekend’ should probably thank Carragher for changing the subject by Sunday evening.

On Monday, Carragher went on Sky News and spoke emotionally about what he had done. But there was a media encounter which was even more revealing when he had arrived at Euston station earlier that day.

Many people would have said nothing to the waiting reporters for a few reasons. They would have been advised by their representatives to stay silent after the initial apology. They would have been aware, too, that Sky might prefer if the first words came on their network and, finally, they would have noticed that this is what people of a certain stature do. They apologise for any offence caused, they issue a standard apology and they play the normal game of crisis management which involves a silence which can only be broken by a transactional arrangement.

Instead, Carragher answered questions and spoke openly about his regret. He may be trying to salvage his career with Sky, but there was something else on display.

In this age of corporatism, Carragher provides a different point of view. Nobody could accuse a man who spits out of his car towards another man and, unwittingly, at that man’s 14-year-old daughter as a dead-eyed careerist. In fact, many would look at the video and believe that this man had some sort of desire to bring his career to an end.

For that reason, it is important to stand up for Carragher right now. In a world where players put their hands over their mouths to say ‘well played’ at the end of a game, there must be room for a man who is so incapable of restraining himself that he thinks spitting towards a man and his 14-year-old daughter is the best course of action at a certain moment in time.

Television, and especially the important world of football punditry, needs fewer people who are political and it needs more people who can combine the intelligence and rage that Carragher brings on the right occasion, although it must be said that this was an incident that involved a disproportionate amount of rage and very little evidence of intelligence.

When he is on television, Carragher analyses without an accompanying sense of vaulting ambition that often is present in even the most perceptive.

For some, their eyes are always on the main chance and football punditry, or any kind of journalism, is just a stepping stone.

Carragher undoubtedly has other ambitions too, but he is always capable of being consumed by the moment and in that moment he forgets that this may all be part of a five-year plan and instead he is lost in that mixture of rage and intelligence that makes him so compelling.

For this reason, he is not just an excellent pundit but an excellent journalist, a man prepared to burn bridges in pursuit of what he considers to be the truth.

It is important that this contribution is not forgotten during the rush to condemn him for an admittedly deeply unpleasant moment.

We don’t know what happened in the lead up to the incident, but the pleading of the daughter in the car, as well as the accumulation of saliva in Carragher’s mouth, suggested that trouble had been brewing for some time.

While we must not lose sight of the victim in all of this, we must also be careful not to make matters worse by taking drastic and unnecessary action.

We also must not forget the subscriber who pays a lot of money to Sky Sports each year and hopes that they will do something more encouraging with that money than give a large chunk of it to Thierry Henry.

Many of us would believe that the portion of our subscription they give to Carragher is, on the other hand, money well spent. Carragher offers an alternative to the corporate blandness which has seen Deadline Day now take place without the supporters present for fear that someone might take things too far and stick a dildo in a reporter’s ear.

So, while the daughter who found herself surrounded by two immature men deserves all our sympathy, some of us will extend the sympathy to ourselves if Carragher’s suspension is made permanent and he is replaced by one of those anodyne careerists whose mission statement is to say nothing.

Carragher is an antidote to this careerism, something he unfortunately had to demonstrate by trying to destroy his own career by spitting unknowingly in the direction of a teenage girl on the way home from Old Trafford on Saturday. He has made a mistake, but nobody except the rising army of the bland would benefit from his dismissal.