Louis Posted August 21, 2005 Report Share Posted August 21, 2005 True blue JONATHAN NORTHCROFT Tim Cahill has thrived since joining Everton and the Australian can add to his growing reputation at Bolton today A sunny back garden, the barbecue is smouldering, and a father is playing ball games with his sons. We are in Prestons, a Sydney suburb, but it could be anywhere in Australia. Except the ball is not small, hard and red, nor is it oval. It is a football — soccer ball to these Socceroos — and Tim Cahill Sr is spending quality time with his boys. It was nearly very different. Sisifo, the children’s mother, is Samoan and the great All Black centre Joe Stanley is a close family friend. Birth and background say these lads should really be playing rugby but Mum, mindful of the injuries she has seen it cause, keeps them away from the sport. Why not cricket or Aussie Rules? Tim Sr, born in Dagenham, remains a Brit. The kids will play football. Chris, the youngest, is in goal and Sean and Tim Jr chase for the ball. There is something special about Tim, a determination and energy. Dad tells him something important: “Keep running. That’s it, Tim, keep running.” In football, a simple and spontaneous sport yet also a structured and strategic profession, it is always hard to quantify whether skills are inherent or learnt. “Tim has something you can’t teach,” says Everton manager David Moyes. “You can talk to players about the angle they approach the ball but he has a gift to be in the right spot at the right time. It’s what good strikers do, they know somehow where the ball ’s going to fall in the box without being told, and Tim has that as a midfield player.” Cahill demurs. “It’s about timing,” he says. “When you’re playing as a midfielder, you play the ball wide, left or right, and then go for the box — but not too early. I’ve done a lot of work on this with my football coaches in Australia and earlier in my life. It’s something I maybe even practised in the back garden with my old man. The thing for me has always been to keep going, keep trying to make the box. I’ve got a good engine and when opponents tire I get more chances to get in there. My dad always told me to keep running.” Nature or nurture? The Cahill question may tantalise opposing coaches who want their own midfielders to be more like the Everton player, but it is moot for Everton supporters. They don’t care why Cahill scores, only how many. In last season’s Premiership only Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard were on Cahill’s level in terms of being scoring centre-midfielders, and only Lampard beat the Australian’s goals total. Given that three of Lampard’s tally came from the penalty spot, Cahill was out on his own in terms of scoring from open play. His 11 strikes represented almost a quarter of all the goals Everton recorded in League games and was testimony to Cahill’s “timing” — whatever its origin — as all were scored inside the box. Five were headers, which is remarkable for a player of 5ft 10in. “He’s good in the air, again because of timing,” says Moyes, “but the thing that makes him different is that he’s brave. “You can have good spring and look the part but when it comes down to it, the question is, ‘Will you put your head in where you might get clattered?’ That’s what makes Tim better than the rest.” It is hard to believe that when the young Cahill, then six, first played for an organised team he would cry before taking to the pitch. He grew up tougher. Bolton, today’s opposition, will remember how on the last day of last season at the Reebok stadium he challenged 6ft 4in Jussi Jaaskelainen for the ball, hustled a mistake from the goalkeeper and scored with an overhead kick. Mariano Barbosa, Villarreal’s keeper, branded Everton “animals”, and Cahill the worst of them, following the first leg of the clubs’ Champions League qualifier at Goodison Park. After the buffeting Cahill gave him, Barbosa wailed: “Everton go in too strong. The game was kill or die.” Bad news, Mariano. “My saying is that when the ball’s there to be won, you go for it. The keeper’s allowed to use his arms, I’m not, and I took some knocks from Barbosa). So he should be able to take as good as he gets and not worry about it. If I’ve got half a chance of scoring I’m going to go in there and do the same again,” said Cahill of his plans for Wednesday’s second leg in Spain. 2-1 behind in the tie and in need of two away goals to progress, many believe reaching the Champions League is now beyond Everton. Class seeps from Villarreal. Nonetheless, Cahill says: “I think they’re going to be wary of us because we’re a very physical side. They’re not the biggest team and we’re going to go there and try and intimidate them on their own pitch. At Goodison they scored two great goals against the run of play and we had chances to score.” Video analysis revealed Everton had the ball in Villarreal’s box “70-odd times” according to Moyes, who emphasises that Everton will play a less direct style in the return match. “I think one of our strongest qualities as a group of players is when we go away from home we don’t hide away,” adds Cahill. “Everyone turns up. Everyone wants to play. We’re thinking positively. We’ve got one chance now to make a name for ourselves, make ourselves famous — as the players who took Everton into the Champions League.” There is a fervour about Cahill. On Australian matters he speaks passionately about the Ashes series and the boost his country’s football would receive if the national team can reach the World Cup by navigating playoffs against the Solomon Islands next month and a South American nation in November. On a personal level he is aware that “people will be asking if I can do the same again in the Premiership”, and is determined there will be no resting on laurels. About Everton he is evangelical. Pundits are writing them off again, he says, just like last season, but this will rouse his club to greater efforts. “He’s really a good boy. He’s the right type — well, as close to the right type as you can find,” says the demanding Moyes, although there was haggling before Cahill agreed to sign a new, improved contract with Everton earlier this month, tying him to the club until 2009. “It was one of the biggest moments in my football career,” he says. “I wanted to sign for as long as possible. As a footballer you don’t want to keep moving or be the subject of speculation. Everton are a massive club and I’m just happy to be part of it.” Having stayed with Millwall for seven years, when there were bigger outfits interested, Cahill is entitled to observe “I’ve always been loyal”. He is delighted his family (he lives with his wife, son Kyha, and Chris, his younger brother) can be sure they are staying in Liverpool, where “everyone feels settled”. What if a team such as Manchester United came in for him? “I’m definitely ambitious but you have to think, ‘Are you going to play every week?’ My motivation is playing football. “I don’t blame Wayne Rooney. He had no choice. He’s one of the biggest players in the world, he’d just proved that at Euro 2004, and (when he left for United) it was the perfect time for him to go. But he’s a great footballer. I’m still learning how to become a footballer and be a better footballer. All I want is to be part of the Premiership and part of a good club. I’d rather be a legend at Everton than a nobody somewhere else.” It is hard to imagine this fellow ever lacking humility, but Cahill recalls a lesson learnt from during his final weeks at Millwall. Having signalled, finally, that he wanted to leave the club he was made to play in a bounce game against a Conference side, in a team of youngsters. “I was unhappy and I could have done more in that game, and Ray Wilkins took me aside and said, ‘Regardless of whether you’re playing Manchester United or Scunthorpe United you have to play the same’. Since that day I think I changed. I was in a comfort zone at Millwall. Now I’m always going to give myself the chance to be the strongest player I can be and the most complete.” Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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