By now you've probably seen the quotes in the papers. Soon after news broke that Liverpool had sacked manager Brendan Rodgers, former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher went on Sky Sports to talk about Liverpool's managerial change and the disappointing end to Rodgers' career. And after a strangely awkward and touching moment with Thierry Henry on camera, he took a pretty nasty dig at Tottenham Hotspur.
But what exactly did he say? Here are his quotes as printed on ESPN, emphasis mine:
"[Liverpool] finished poorly -- you think of the [FA Cup] semifinal against Aston Villa, games against Hull, Palace and that finish at Stoke [where Liverpool lost 6-1 on the final day], so he's lucky to keep his job.
"But to then keep him in charge, give him that money and then change the manager after seven games, he will know himself he had to make a big start and he hasn't so that's where the pressure comes from...
"Liverpool are becoming Tottenham: they think they're a big club but the real big clubs are not too worried about them, who they buy and what they're going to do. That's the situation it's become for Liverpool, even when I was there towards the end. I'm not just blaming Brendan Rodgers and this set of players.
"What are these owners of the club going to do to get Liverpool back to where they need to be, which is consistently in Champions League and challenging for trophies?"
WHAT? "Liverpool are becoming Tottenham?" After Spurs finished above them in the table five out of the past six seasons? How dare he, the arrogance, rabble rabble rabble, I am very internet mad about this minor thing that a former Liverpool player said about my club!
Yes, as Spurs fans we're probably justified to be at least a little crabby over Carragher's comments about our beloved club. But here's the thing: he's kind of got a point. While Spurs are one of the larger clubs in Europe, in the only metric that counts – money – they're still well behind Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and yes, Liverpool. Carragher is also correct about how the really big clubs view Tottenham. Honestly? They're not that worried.
And that's if you even dare to broach into the murky, obnoxious definition of what a "big club" really is. Surely there are clubs that are larger and more powerful than others. Are Liverpool and Tottenham "big clubs?" Is Joe Flacco an "elite quarterback?" Yes! No! Depends on how you look at it! The entire concept is definitional and is good only for half-drunken arguments over a pint or three at the local pub, but there's no question that the vast majority of Liverpool fans think they're a big club.
To Liverpool's credit, they are a club that has tasted a lot more glory over the past 20 years than Spurs ever have. A club with a huge and passionate supporter base, they feel as though competition for Premier League titles is the club's birthright because for so many years, it was. The past six years notwithstanding, Liverpool were almost always looking down the table at Spurs, and Liverpool fans have long memories.
Even in more recent years as Tottenham finished ahead of Liverpool, the Reds are still able to attract players to Anfield that would likely never come to Tottenham. James Milner in particular would have been an instant hit at White Hart Lane, but there's no indication that he even considered playing in north London. Spurs tried for years to land Christian Benteke, only to see him spurn Spurs for the promise of high wages and sold-out home matches at Anfield.
There's a great scene in the movie "In Bruges" where Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are looking at the apocalyptic artwork of 15th century painter Hieronymus Bosch and make a comparison between Spurs... and purgatory. Certainly this scene is good for a few yucks no matter what you support, but the underlying truth is still there: Tottenham are the purgatory club, perceived to be stuck in that middle ground between irrelevancy and glory. Sisyphus, forever pushing the boulder up the hill.
So you can see where Carragher is coming from. Despite the public outcry for Brendan Rodgers to be sacked in recent weeks, Liverpool are still in a pretty dark place at the moment. Even staring up at Tottenham on the table as they are, and poised to sign one of the hottest managerial commodities in football in Jurgen Klopp, this is still the deepest, darkest fear of all Liverpool supporters. They don't want to get stuck where Tottenham is now, toiling just above mid-table and just below the Champions League. A club in shadow, forever reliving its moments of past glory while achieving few in the present day. It's a terrifying place to be.
But here's where Carragher's suppositions start to break down, for as we know for the first time in a very long time there appears to be a long-term plan in place at Tottenham Hotspur, and the plan is structural. When Spurs qualified for the Champions League in 2010, the hope was that the extra money given for participating in the competition could be used as a springboard to attract higher quality talent to keep them in the competition. The problem is that the underlying finances never could get that to work, and it was a dangerous game to play. Spurs wanted to play at the high-stakes poker table, but couldn't really afford the buy-in.
Form is temporary, as they say, but the construction of the new stadium in north London promises to usher in a sea change not only for the club, but the entire area. Suddenly: 20,000 more fans in the stadium on home match days. Significantly shorter waiting lists for season tickets. A shiny new stadium with which to entice players. A much more robust financial platform. A young manager with a track record of developing talent. When the Northumberland Development Project is completed, it will mean that Spurs are no longer nipping at the heels of the big boys, they stand a very real chance of becoming one themselves.
The other harsh reality is that it's not just Tottenham who are getting better. TV revenue is leading to increased parity throughout the league which leads to greater competition top to bottom. While there's still a gap between the top 4-5 clubs and the rest, that gap is shrinking and top clubs that whiff for a few seasons on Champions League football have a very real risk of being left behind. Is it any wonder that Jamie Carragher is worried? He isn't lashing out at Tottenham because Spurs are bad, though Spurs were bad for a very long time. He's simply trying to reconcile the Tottenham that he sees now with the club he always thought Tottenham to be.
So if you can find it in your heart to forgive Jamie Carragher for his comments, do so. After all, he's not wrong, exactly, but he's not afraid of Liverpool becoming like Tottenham as much as he's afraid of Tottenham supplanting them. Whether he realizes it or not his comments do suggest that a shifting of the footballing terra firma is imminent. On the eve of a major managerial change in Merseyside, and with the prospect of another period of rebuilding ahead, that's a pretty scary realization for any Liverpool supporter.