Models You Should Know, And Not Because Of Their Famous Flames

Neil Jones, the well-regarded Liverpool Echo sports reporter, left the newspaper this week. He departs with lots of goodwill but also carrying a story that maybe sums up an entire age where the demand for access is immediate regardless of the circumstances.

It was early summer in 2013 when Neil, on his day off it deserves be emphasised, returned home to find his garage on fire. With the flames extinguished and his family safe, Neil – still slightly in shock – explained on Twitter what had happened. The first response came immediately, from an anonymous handle entitled @lfc2012: “what u think of suarez quotes?”

When Neil politely replied that he was a “bit busy, mate”, a landslide of unsympathetic comments followed, each of them going something like this: “Can’t be that busy.” Whatever Luis Suárez had said, it was clearly viewed as being more important to the future of the universe than the wellbeing of anyone else – even if they were dealing with the fall-out of what thankfully, had not developed into a catastrophe.

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Carragher suspended for rest of the season for spitting incident

If a moment of reflection is needed to illustrate how obsessed society has become with finding out information about the highest profile footballers – as well as how far it will go when interacting with individuals that are sometimes in a position to help in that quest – then perhaps this is it.

There are those who will frown and point out society cannot be judged through just one example of what at best can be termed as social media impatience – even though other examples are being formed on a daily basis if not by the hour, minute or second if you choose to look. And yet, will the same frowners be ready to accept it is unfair to judge a footballer absolutely through the prism of his worst instant; that too, it does not act as confirmation all footballers are the same – even if others like Jamie Carragher have made mistakes?

Jamie Carragher spits on 14-year-old following Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United

It is Carragher, of course, who spent some of last Saturday afternoon being trailed on the motorway by the football supporting father of a rival team, someone who was so determined to film him more than once, his focus was not on the traffic in front. This was a father who had his daughter in the passenger seat telling him to stop. We have since had Carragher apologise for his reaction and plead for the mob to step back after the father revealed his fears for his daughter’s safety following open death threats, predictably left online via faceless and nameless accounts. 

The mess left behind invites the question as to whether the sorry episode says more about society than it does about footballers. Are footballers a product of society or do footballers influence society so much that everyone else follows their lead? The truth is somewhere in the middle, though society would never be able to admit that and footballers cannot say it. The mere fact there can be discussions about frameworks and footballers being separate from them suggests something is not quite right.

Jamie Carragher says he hasn't offered to resign from Sky Sports after spitting incident

It does not usually take very long for any criticism of a footballer’s underperformance or misdemenour to arrive at the subject of earnings. There has never been more wealth in the sport, though it feels like we have reached an unprecedented level of unhappiness. What that says about capitalism is an extension of the debate.

Most footballers come from similarly modest backgrounds yet because wages are so ridiculously high they are treated exclusively as traitors of class by the overwhelming majority of people, whether the critics are jealous and from similar upbringings, jealous despite being from better economic starting points in life, those with little to no interest in football but always have something to say when a footballer messes up, or simply older generations who remember when footballers had slightly nicer cars but still maintained clear connections with their communities they came from.

jamie-carragher.jpg Carragher has been suspended by Sky Sports until the end of the season (Getty)

Though it should, it does not seem to matter anymore what someone like Carragher has done before when they do wrong. Maybe his actions are more shocking because he is so liked – so relatable. He is not a polished PR robot and so should it really be a surprise when he makes mistakes, even this one? Considering he knew that he was being filmed, you know that he is being genuine when he uses that phrase “moment of madness.”

The evidence is there to demonstrate this is someone who has definitely not abandoned his roots. The 23 Foundation has donated millions of pounds towards the most underprivileged families in Merseyside through a time where the number of foodbanks in the region have risen rapidly under a Conservative government. He still plays football at the same Marsh Lane community centre in Bootle with the mates he grew up with. When Carragher found out through pub talk that a serviceman from Bootle had been blown up in Afghanistan, he went to see Andy Grant just to offer some emotional support. A friendship has existed since.

joey-barton.jpg Barton's past reputation is probably why he doesn't receive the same support as Carragher (Getty )

These are just a few of the examples why people from Liverpool are so willing to defend him but not quite so much someone like Joey Barton who might be far more reasonable than most care to think but has a track record that involves what might be interpreted as a remarkable commitment to the tarnishing of his own name and in turn, the name of the city he comes from. Barton, in fairness, never played for Liverpool or Everton and therefore does not have a natural groundswell of immediate support but nevertheless, while Barton seemed determined to make Huyton portion culpability for what he has become in his autobiography, Carragher in his credits Bootle – an area which shares Huyton’s challenges – for helping him stay humble.

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Jamie Carragher’s tearful apology for spitting - interview in full

If forgiveness remains a feature of a healthy society then Carragher should eventually be allowed back on our screens. If his profile and reach means he is so influential, amongst children particularly, what sort of message does it send to future generations when someone as hard-working, benevolent and repentant as he gets punished forever?

A wise person inside football says that footballers have extraordinary talents but they are expected to always be extraordinary people. A contradiction exists because the more we ask them to be perfect role models, the more we risk sending them away from the realities that so many face. Surely, then, it is an unhealthy obsession that will only result in the world becoming that bit more imperfect.

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