THE bumps and bruises will subside but the high-pitched ringing in Philipp Degen’s ears is likely to continue for some time yet.
If it does, though, the Swiss international will be the last person to complain; Jamie Carragher might be the toughest of taskmasters but his constant squawking and badgering is helping Degen resurrect his Liverpool career.
Given that sightings of the man Rafa Benitez recruited from Borussia Dortmund in 2008 were as rare as Carragher goals in his first season on Merseyside, many Liverpudlians had written Degen off, wondering what contribution he could make to the club. Events during the past week, however, have forced some doubters to reassess their opinions; having hitherto been considered too brittle for the Premier League, Degen has almost been coerced into taking the rough and tumble in his stride.
Never was that impression highlighted more than in an episode during Wednesday’s win over Tottenham Hotspur; after finding himself on the end of another hefty tackle, one which left him writhing on the floor, it looked as if a substitution might be required.
That he could barely get to his feet added to the impression he was hurt but Carragher had no intention of letting his colleague wallow in self-pity; dragging the 26-year-old up, the captain told Degen bluntly: “There’s nothing wrong with you!”
It might be a shock tactic but such a forthright attitude has gone down well with Degen, who started his career with FC Basel; you only become a success at Liverpool by putting in the hard yards and Degen does not want to disappoint one of the club’s bedrocks.
“I am footballer with heart and I live to play the game,” he said. “All the time I was out (injured), I kept believing I could come back. I wanted to fight to show I could play here and I think everyone knows I don’t give up.
“It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past. I just had to wait for my chance to give my best. I hope I have done that now. Carra has been a big influence, particularly in the last two games at Stoke and against Tottenham.
“He shouts at me, he tells me where to stand and what to do. He is very important for us and also for me. Sometimes when you are behind a man, you have a better view of what is going on. This is very good and helps me a lot.”
Degen might also find a blank weekend is to his assistance – why he was forced to withstand such a clattering from Tottenham’s players is shrouded in mystery but the gingerly manner in which he walked out of Anfield suggested it had taken a toll.
“Yes I am little bit sore!” he said with a wry smile. “But for me it is almost a new feeling because I have been out so long. My first year here was really sad but I never lost my focus. I just wanted to keep going and help when I could.
Sometimes there were some very hard tackles but I kept going. I know I can keep improving but I still have to learn about a few things. That’s very important for me if I want to help the team.”
He’s right when he says it is a new feeling; after sustaining two serious injuries in his first two starts last season, Degen suffered more woe earlier in the campaign when he was harshly sent-off during a 3-1 defeat at Fulham on October 31.
But, ironically, fitness problems have presented him with a chance to show he has the ability to make a contribution to a team that has the bit between its teeth once more and Degen is desperate to be involved again when Liverpool face Wolves next Tuesday.
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