One finger on the table would be ace high, two would be a pair and there were others for a flush or a run. He’d let me know whether to go in or not. That’s important when you’re a young lad and not on big wages!
Sometimes under Rafa Benitez we got the plane, that’s probably the same as what they do now. But towards the end of my career we got the train, my preferred mode of transport. We’d have carriages booked out so people weren’t everywhere – can you imagine the carnage if they were?
‘Survive or die, financially’
When it came to the match, sometimes players wouldn’t get that crucial first pass right. They’d look like there was something on their mind, and we’d be laughing thinking we took a couple of quid off them on the coach, maybe more.
Steve Harkness was the best, but everyone was trying to get the kegs off someone else. It was either survive or die, and some died financially.
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Rafa’s revealing room-mates
I was always in a room with Michael Owen for the first four or five years, then he went off to Real Madrid. Then it was Steven Gerrard and it never changed really.
A lot of people used to like having their own rooms, I didn’t, I always thought it was better being with someone. Whether it be interacting with team-mates or talking about the game, it’s better than everyone going back to their room, it’s not right.
Some people prepared for games differently, but I was predominantly with those players. Rooms were almost always sorted by the players with someone they were close to. It would only change on pre-season tours when new signings came in.
It was funny when Rafa Benitez first came in, he put me in a room with Sami Hyypia because we both played centre-back, almost as if we were going to talk about the striker we were playing against the next day. He would put the two strikers together, the full-backs and the wingers together and so on.
The funny thing is that everyone knew the team – we could work out the team from the rooms! Everyone knew if they were playing or not, so that quickly went out of the window. The substitute rooms were a little depressing, not that I was ever in them!
- Off Script: Carra’s standout team talks
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Thierry Henry was the toughest opponent. I had a lot of good games against Didier Drogba. I think he scored three goals in about 30 games against Liverpool, but people seem to forget that and remember his unbelievable goal in 2006.
Sometimes as a defender against some of the top players we had at that time – Alan Shearer, Henry, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie – there’s not a lot you can do in certain situations because they were that good. That goal Drogba scored there wasn’t a lot I could do.
I trained with great strikers like Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez every day, so I never came up against them, but I worked out their games. The same thing happened with Drogba because we played him so much.
Almost every game we played with Chelsea was either 0-0 or 1-0, every game was on a knife edge.
You knew as a defender if you made a mistake it was over because with John Terry at the back, Chelsea wouldn’t concede too much. If you got the first goal you knew you wouldn’t concede too much either.
‘You shouldn’t give them a kick’
There were definitely players I played against that were tougher than expected. I always talk about Kevin Davies, Bobby Zamora, Carlton Cole.
No disrespect, they weren’t great strikers, but people thought you shouldn’t give them a kick, but all of them were four inches taller than me, quicker than me and stronger than me.