Small pleasures: The cattiness of Carragher

Who doesn’t love a good bitchy comment? It is my life’s ambition to one day be described as ‘withering’, but so far I’ve only managed ‘blithering’, which was at least a step up from ‘snivelling’. I reckon if I get my head down and work at it, I can get myself up to ‘blathering’ by the end of this paragraph. Aaand…yep, done.

Jamie Carragher has been in excellent form in this area recently. A few weeks ago he gave us an absolute masterclass through his reaction to Jamie Redknapp’s constant interruptions. It was such a masterclass of the art that Sky Sports could have re-purposed their night game that week into Monday Night Passive Aggression and asked a panel of experts to analyse the moment again and again. Nobody would have complained if they had.

Being a football pundit is a lot like sex: it can be unpleasant and tedious if you’re doing it with someone you don’t really get along with, but if you get the right pairing it’s a joy for you both, despite the unpleasant patina of sweat you’ll be caked in by the end of it. Also, ideally Graeme Souness will be sitting in the corner nodding approvingly.

You’d think that Jamies Redknapp and Carragher would make excellent bedfellows, and not just because of their Liverpool connection, or because Jamie is possibly the most take-him-home-to-mother, “why can’t you find a nice boy like him?” name imaginable.

Redknapp is definitely the kind of man parents would want their son or daughter to bring home to introduce to them. I can only imagine he’s a smash hit with the mums: making charmingly knowing mention of how she doesn’t look a day over 30; and yes, Barbara, cutting sandwiches into little triangles is the best way, and what delicious sandwiches they are, by the way.

Carragher, on the other hand, would be the father-in-law’s favourite, gladly spending an entire day down the snooker hall or out fishing with old Nigel. Carra would tell stories with just the right level of carefully calibrated bawdiness to seem cheerfully irreverent without spilling over into scandalous territory.

Never mind that Barbara is an accomplished nuclear physicist and rock climber, or that Nigel doesn’t even like snooker or fishing; the sheer force of their carefully screen-managed personalities would see them transform into weird outdated sexist sitcom archetypes when exposed to a Jamie.

So there’s something really satisfying about seeing the chummy mask slip and realising that contrary to what the happy smiling image Sky Sports would understandably like to present, they are as prone to petty bust-ups with colleagues as the rest of us.

It’s a precarious balance, however. If a pundit is too often prickly and disagreeable, it loses its lustre very quickly. Simply being loud and contrarian doesn’t cut it here – bitchiness is only a potent weapon when deployed judiciously. The principle of “speak less, and people will listen when you do deign to speak” definitely applies.

This applies to managers too. When Jose Mourinho was new to England, we found his grumbles and gripes entertaining, but with years of being a grumpy old sod in the bank, his outbursts have yielded diminishing returns to the point that right-thinking fans simply roll their eyes at him.

But the same kind of behaviour from the current master of “ooh, get him”, Ronald Koeman, is bloody great. Perhaps over time we’ll tire of the Dutchman’s sniping, but for now, I’ll lap it up like a hungover cat desperately gulping at flat cola.

A corollary of this is that the pleasure to be taken from the most outspoken people being put in their place by a bit of bitchy brilliance only increases along with how loud the target has been in the past with their controversial views or constant complaints. Or, put more simply: it’s great fun to see gobby people put in their place.

So, I think we can all agree, this was bloody great, wasn’t it?

Unph. Now that’s some top-class cattiness.

Steven Chicken – follow him on Twitter here.