Gary Cahill: Legend or Great Servant?
Even amidst a global pandemic, resulting in the temporary suspension of almost all league football worldwide, Chelsea Twitter continues to find things to be divided over; and as long as the discussion’s stay respectful, I endorse them. After all, we have to get our football fix from somewhere, and playing FIFA until 3:00am or endlessly watching highlight reels of years gone by can only go so far in reminding us of the joy our lives currently lack in the absence of the beautiful game. With that in mind, I thought I’d deliberate over a player who can’t help but divide opinion. Gary Cahill is a player who is personally special to me; as is any of the squad who participated in our European glory of 2012, but he was far more than just a squad number over his 7 years at the club, despite some stating otherwise. Here’s a look at why.
Cahill signed for the Blues in January 2012, for a reported fee of £7 million, which with hindsight applied, is nothing short of a bargain. Within months of pulling on our royal blue shirt, he had the most prestigious club football trophy to his name; and by merit too (Cahill’s performance against Barcelona in the semi-final first leg was astounding, whilst his, and the whole teams performance in Munich was titanic). Our FA Cup Final victory over Liverpool in the same month meant that Cahill was involved in two major competition wins in just 4 months at the club. If Gazza had left the following season, that to me would’ve been enough to class him as a great servant or ‘cult hero’ at Chelsea, but I understand some would argue that he didn’t play a big enough part in those two successes to be credited with that status. Even though I don’t agree.
Fast forward three years, Cahill is now an established first team player, as well as England International. For those who argue that his debut season was due to the quality of teammates surrounding him, their argument falls short after taking a look at his personal accolades, as well as his club honours in his first three and a half years in blue. Gary Cahill now had 5 major trophies under his belt for Chelsea. In-fact, he had all five major trophies available to win at club level. Accompanied with two consecutive inclusions in the PFA Team of the Season in 2013/14 and 2014/15, the latter being a title winning season, he was at the time one of the greatest central defenders around. Again, if Cahill had left post 2014/15, I would struggle not to give him ‘Chelsea legend status based off of his performances and achievements in his few years present at the club alone. But he didn’t. He signed a four year deal in December 2015, amidst our horror show of a Premier League campaign; one I like to refer to as the ‘anomaly’.
The 2016/17 season brought fresh hope, and Cahill was again at the heart of it. Now with a wealth of knowledge and big game experience, Gazza was as influential off the pitch, as he was on it. With Antonio Conte preferring the dynamism of a three-at-the-back formation, there were not a lot of minutes offered to an ageing John Terry. It was not a problem however, as the greatest centre half of all time had already taught Cahill more than enough to fulfil his role on the pitch, and as the captain of the team. Whilst Terry rightfully held club captaincy that year, and was no doubt an immeasurable influence on our success in 2016/17, it is not unfair to say that Gary Cahill captained us to our 5th Premier League title, whilst again being included in the PFA Team of the Season. Defensive brilliance and last ditch tackles aside, Cahill was also a fantastic threat from set pieces, and boasts a highly respectable goal tally for a centre half, something again I’m sure was nurtured by the advice and influence of John Terry. Cahill scored 25 goals in 290 games in Blue, his highest scoring season registering 8 goals in 43 appearances.
Following John Terry’s emotional departure at the end of the 2016/17 season, Cahill was made the club captain by manager Antonio Conte, and deservedly so. Safely our most experienced and reliable player at the time, it was only fair his hard work and loyalty to the club was rewarded. Now aged 32, there were cracks and flaws slowly creeping into his game. Expected however, as is the cycle of the game; players come and go, strengthen then deteriorate, but Cahill was unfairly targeted for what, in my eyes, was an inevitability. Not playing as regularly, he was still as devoted to the club as ever and helped us to our 8th FA Cup success.
When Maurizio Sarri took over for the 2018/19 campaign, it was clear Cahill was not at all involved in his plans. Cahill was as respectful and professional as ever despite this and understood he had to move on to seek regular Premier League football, which he was certainly still capable of playing. Arsenal showed interest, but I’d like to think this never materialised due to Cahill’s love and loyalty to us, as opposed to a lack of pursuit from the former. Now at Crystal Palace, I am regularly reminded by friends who are avid supporters of the South East London club of just how good a ‘defender’ he is. Sometimes I even consider whether he could’ve been useful to us this season, in what has been a terrible defensive campaign.
So after looking back over Cahill’s time for Chelsea, I respectfully ask how any Chelsea fan can possibly consider him anything less than an outright Chelsea legend? Maybe it’s his casual, typically discreet style of play; a player who never catches the eye like some, and for this reason is branded as ‘average’. But to me there is no denying that Cahill was a top quality player, who’s Chelsea career unfortunately naturally declined, as many other of our widely accepted legends careers did. I’ll end with referring to a common, slightly annoying cliché, that had Cahill been signed from Brazil, with the name Cahillinho on his shirt, this piece would not have even been written. Gary Cahill. You are a Chelsea legend.
Edited By Martell Dublin