Thursday 15 August 2013
For Jamie Carragher, his retirement from playing to become a TV pundit could hardly have been better timed.
After 19 years at Liverpool and 508 matches in the Barclays Premier League, the former Liverpool captain will be analysing for Sky Sports what promises to be one of the most fascinating seasons for a long time, with last seasons top three, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, all having a change of manager in the summer.
"Everything is new. It feels like the start of the new era with certain people going, obviously Sir Alex Ferguson being the main one"
"It's been a long time since we had a Premier League like this, where there has been so much intrigue and interest from everyone, supporters, even players and the managers themselves," Carragher says. "I just think it will be so interesting, especially at the top of the league.
"You normally have managerial changes further down the league to try to improve the situation but for the three top teams to have new managers at the start of the season there are a lot of questions to be asked about them: the players they bring in, how they set up, what the results will be."
Carragher will start his role as a pundit alongside Gary Neville on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football Show. It meant that for the first time in 19 years he did not have to do pre-season training. Some of which Carragher says he will miss, some not.
"It has been different from previous summers," he says. "I have been on holiday while the lads are on pre-season, which isn't normal. It was good to have some extra time with the family, which was one of the reasons I retired.
"I miss being in with the lads each day but the travelling round the world and playing the pre-season games, I don't miss that. I am sure I will miss the training and the games eventually, but the next best thing is watching them from the studio and giving your view and your opinion."
Asked what he can bring to the successful MNF show, on top of his freshness from playing, Carragher points towards something that stood out on the pitch, his honesty. It will mean that he will not stop himself from criticising players with whom he shared a dressing room less than four months ago.
"I have only just come out of the game and so can give insight on players who I have played with and against," he says. "I aim to just be myself and I won't look to criticise players for the sake of it, but if I feel that is my opinion of a situation I will say it because it is part of my job and that is more important than keeping a few of my mates happy."
The former Liverpool centre-back is looking forward to analysing how the League will pan out, starting with Manchester City at home to Newcastle United on the evening of Monday, 19 August. Carragher approves of City's decision to hire Manuel Pellegrini as Roberto Mancini's replacement and is also excited by the arrival of David Moyes at Old Trafford as well as the return of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea. The latter appointment, he suggests, will be the most successful this season, but each of the three have separate strengths to call upon.
"If I feel that is my opinion of a situation I will say it because it is part of my job and that is more important than keeping a few of my mates happy."
"They are all great appointments but only one can win the League," he says. "So the other two will be disappointed or maybe get some criticism.
"Mourinho coming back, he has experience of winning in this country, so that is why, for me, Chelsea have a slight edge on their rivals. Pellegrini is new and has to get used to the Premier League but he has a set of players that you could argue are the best squad.
"Then you have Man Utd who won the league last season by a long way, but with a new manager and they still have not brought players in. Is that squad good enough to go and do it again? That's the question that will be asked, but I am sure David Moyes will dip into the transfer market before it closes."
Of the three clubs coming up, Carragher would like, and expects, Cardiff City, where former Liverpool team-mate Craig Bellamy plays, to do well, but Crystal Palace and Hull City also have factors that help to boost their chances of staying up.
"They have great home support behind them to make their stadium a fortress," he says. "I would expect them to go again in the transfer market but the other two, Crystal Palace and Hull, both have managers in Ian Holloway and Steve Bruce, who have Premier League experience, which could be a big factor for them when Malky Mackay doesn't."
For Jamie Carragher, whether playing or not, some things never change in football; something many others will surely agree on.
"You look at when the fixtures come out and you still have that excitement and buzz about the season," he says, expecting that buzz to continue well into the season. "Everything is new. With certain people going, and Sir Alex Ferguson being the main one, it feels like the start of the new era."
Which is true for Carragher, too.
The top four: 1) Chelsea; 2) Man Utd; 3) Man City; 4) Arsenal
The surprise team
"Sunderland have made a lot of changes and it will be interesting to see how they do. There is the energy and enthusiasm of Paolo Di Canio last season and I'd like to see them do well because he is quite entertaining. The Stadium of Light is a difficult place to go to, as well."
"Robin van Persie will play most weeks, whereas Man City will rotate their strikers and Luis Suarez's ban will act against him."
New signing to make the biggest impact
"Jesus Navas is what City have needed, someone to give them that option of pace down the side for a counter-attack and width to the game. He will add something that they do not have at the moment."
Sky kicks off its biggest ever Premier League season with live coverage of Swansea v Man Utd on Sky Sports 1, Sky 2 and Pick TV on 17 August. www.skysports.com/football
On Monday, read Jamie Carragher's thoughts on Manchester City v Newcastle United, on premierleague.com
For a look at how Sky Sports operates behind the scenes, click here