BRENDAN RODGERS admits it has taken him time to appreciate Jamie Carragher’s true qualities as the veteran centre-back prepared for another landmark in his Liverpool FC career.
Carragher will make his 150th European appearance for the Anfield outfit in tonight’s Europa League round of 32 second leg tie against Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg.
The 35-year-old, who will retire at the end of the season, had made only one Premier League start before mid-January with Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger the preferred centre-back pairing.
But Carragher has since started seven of the last nine games with Rodgers hailing the stalwart as his squad’s best pure defender.
And the Liverpool manager said: “Sometimes when you are a coach and a manager, it takes time to assess the group. You need to give players the opportunity to play, and clearly Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel were the first-choice pairing when I arrived.
“When Carra has come in, he has been brilliant. He never put a foot wrong in the cup games. I just got to the stage where I just felt that – and this had nothing to do with how Martin Skrtel was playing – we needed to be more vocal.
“The team was quiet and lacked organisation and leadership on the field. My gut feeling was to put Carra back in. His performance level since then has been remarkable, really.”
Rodgers added: “Why did I not do it earlier? Sometimes it takes time for you to see it.
“Initially we lacked goals, defensively we were all right. Obviously we are trying to look to the future in terms of giving the two central defenders an opportunity to form a partnership.