By Richard Buxton
Former Liverpool youth coach Hugh McAuley has hailed Jamie Carragher, following the news that the defender will call time on his career at the end of the season.
The 35-year-old, who made his Reds debut as a teenager over 17 years ago, announced on Thursday that he will leave the Merseyside club upon the expiry of his contract in the summer.
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And McAuley, who oversaw the club's youth teams between 1990 and 2009 - including the victorious FA Youth Cup squad of 1996 which included Carragher - has insisted the centre-back's strong character was clear from day one.
"When he turned up for his first training session, there was a feeling he was very enthusiastic, always very vocal," the 60-year-old told Goal.com. "Even as a nine-year-old, he was bossing people around, talking to them and organising things, up and down the field as a youngster in the coaching sessions and straight away he grabbed your attention because you saw his enthusiasm and love of the game.
"Jamie's the sort of lad who goes to training every day and every match with the same attitude - he gives 100 per cent and any slight problem, any slight injury, for him it's always a challenge. It's a new target that he's got to get to and he quickly moves on, gets on with it, gets himself fit, gets himself playing and put him back in contention for places, and that's what he did as a younger player.
"When he was breaking into the first team, he was always there or thereabouts and eventually from an experienced point of view, having had some games, and then he makes the place his own. His enthusiasm and big heart that he had, and obviously his natural ability, were attributes that he had and people could see from a young age."
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"From the point of view at Liverpool, that amount of experience, expertise, knowledge, enthusiasm and the massive heart that he's had for the club for so long can only be good for either young players or senior players who are there, so whatever role the club would want to offer him, he would fit in and do it to the best of his abilities as well," he added.
"He commands that respect of everybody there for what he's done but we'll have to wait and see on that. He will obviously choose the direction he wants to go but I'm sure whatever that is, he'll do well. He's always been a confident young man. He's always had the confidence in his own ability; he's had the ability to organise, to learn, graft hard all his life for what he's achieved, and he puts himself on the line.
"Things that he's not experienced in, he makes it his business to learn - and that's Jamie. He loves the game, he loves players, he loves teams, he loves playing for Liverpool but his experience now should shine through in other areas, whether it be in coaching or managing, or whether it be in the media, because he's got so much to offer. The stuff that he doesn't know, he makes it his business to learn and get on with."
McCauley also expressed his belief that Carragher would be worthy of gracing any of Liverpool's much-vaunted teams of the past and underlined the importance of the club promoting young local talent to replace him.
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"I think Jamie fits into any Liverpool team, any Liverpool era because he's one of the greats. He's shown by example. He's a Scouser, and I'm a local man myself, so the local lads who do good, come through the ranks and have done exceptionally well for the club in being successful, they stick in your mind all the time and he ranks among those," he continued.
"He's a local lad who's gone right through the same as Phil Thompson, Ian Callaghan, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen. They've all gone through and done exceptionally well so people take the local ones on board very quickly because they want to be like them.
"They can see that they got there through hard work and obviously their ability but they're the examples and they're the flagship for the football club if you like. We want more and hopefully we can get more Scousers in that same situation as the likes of Jamie, Steven and Robbie for years to come."
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