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Baxter hoping Khune brings the magic

South Africa
By ESPN Staff

Carragher desperate for title challenge

Jamie Carragher has spent all his working life fighting to turn the tide of Liverpool's ever-increasing failure to mount a serious title challenge.

Carragher, now 30, is the first generation of modern-day Liverpool players not to experience a championship success.

Liverpool won the title the year he was born - and there have been seven more since then. But nothing since 1990.

When Carragher made his senior debut in 1997, it had been seven years since Liverpool's last title.

Now 11 years later, the Bootle-born defender has played more than 500 games for the club and is no nearer the one major European and domestic honour missing from his CV.

Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s up to that last title win in 1990, successive generations of Liverpool players tucked away title-winning medals with consummate ease.

But Carragher knows the pain of the gloom of league under-achievement which has dogged Liverpool right through his professional career. The nearest he got was as runners-up in 2002.

A one-club man and with healthy business interests in the city - including a new sports bar - Carragher will see out his days at Anfield now.

He knows time is running out. Manchester United are now just one championship short of equalling Liverpool's proud record of 18 title wins.

But even now Carragher possesses a wry scouse humour about the situation, saying: 'Just challenging for the title with 15 games to go would be nice!'

He added: 'People always talk about us pushing for the league, but to be honest it is not very often that we have even challenged. But just a challenge this season would be nice, to still be in the hunt.

'It has only happened about once since I have been in the team, when I played a few games under Roy Evans.

'We probably should have won the league then but let it slip towards the end. But since then we have never even challenged so that is something we are all looking for.

'I would take a title medal over anything else at the moment because that would make my full set, but really I just want to be competitive in the league.'

That really is the core problem for Carragher. He just wants to see Liverpool go into March with a chance of the title.

This coming season, with Rafael Benitez trying to fine-tune a squad that finished 11 points off top spot last season, Liverpool just have to compete, as Carragher says.

If they fail to even manage that, Anfield senses that the American owners - or whoever ends up owning the club - will want to see changes.

It will certainly be another season of behind-the-scenes financial turmoil, no doubt.

There is a new stadium to pay for and a credit squeeze on so the chances of a smooth ride off the pitch allowing minds to concentrate on the real challenge, seem remote.

But Carragher is more concerned with holding off the challenge of young defenders Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel for the central defensive jobs he and Sami Hyypia have commanded for so long.

Time waits for no-one and Carragher can see the challenge. He knows it is a battle he will eventually lose - but not, he hopes, before he has added that one last medal to his tally.

He says: 'I have had a few seasons like the one coming up over the years where the competition for places has been intense.

'But that is what it is about at Liverpool. It is about the battle for your place and I am prepared to fight and battle as well as anyone. I expected to play in the past and I expect to play again next season.

'Every day you go into training you feel as though you have to prove yourself all over again. I always work hard and I will continue to do so.'


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