Cahill on learning from Henry, appreciating why Hiddink didn't start him and why he was so good in the air

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Socceroos legend Tim Cahill has opened up to former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher in a wide-ranging interview where he discussed his move from Australia as a teenager, not starting against Japan in 2006 and learning from long discussions with Thierry Henry.

Cahill was speaking to Carragher as part of the Liverpool legend's podcast The Greatest Game that was released last week.

Carragher described Cahill as being "a bit of a nightmare for me in derby games".

The former Socceroos midfielder said he was able to make the move over to England at 18-years-old thanks to "a strong mindset from my mother who had three jobs when I was growing up." 

Cahill had a successful six-season stint with Millwall from 1998 until 2004, which culminated in the 2004 FA Cup Final against a Manchester United side that featured Cristiano Ronaldo. 

“There was only one way we could win that final, it was if we started a brawl in the tunnel," Cahill joked. 

“My thing was Roy Keane - I wanted to play against him more than anyone. He was someone that I looked up to.

"I remember having a conversation with Alex Ferguson about how Keane came back from a knee injury. And I had a knee injury at the time (2002).

“Because of Roy Keane, I did my recovery morning, noon and night, and came back from the injury in record time.

"I kicked him in that final, and he just took it and ran off. And I’m thinking 'oh jeez I better stay away from him'. Then he caught me and I got up and I was like ‘what are you doing?’ And he was like if you can give it, take it. I never forgot it."  

“That final was when I thought I should be mixing it with these guys every week. 

Tim Cahill up against Roy Keane in the 2004 FA Cup Final.
Getty Images

 

Cahill got his move to Everton in the summer of 2004, but the club was surprised by how much desire he had to play for Australia at the Athens Olympics, even though it would mean he would miss the start of the season. 

"I told them 'I’m going to the Olympics before I come into the season'. They were like ‘what?’" Cahill explained. 

"My country is important to me. 'But it’s the Premier League, son'. One thing you need to know about me is I want to play in the Olympics. I’m an overage player and I want to play for my country. And (when I'm back) I will give you everything. I’ll run through brick walls for you."  

 

Tim Cahill up against Javier Mascherano at the 2004 Athens Olympics
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Cahill went on to become an Everton legend in his eight seasons, playing 278 matches and scoring 68 goals. 

However, while Everton achieved some impressive league table positions, they never won a trophy. 

‘If you had put Lukaku in our team we would have won something," Cahill, who still stays in regular touch with former Everton coach David Moyes. 

Carragher and Cahill then went on to discuss the Merseyside derbies, which Cahill scored in five of them often against Carragher. 

"I (use to play on) you because you didn’t like to jump. And if I could get you on a standing jump and nudge you backwards…if I pushed back then I could take it on my chest or you would foul me," Cahill explained to Carragher.   

"But if you have a running jump, different game. If you touched me and held me, it meant you couldn’t jump.

"Sometimes I would go and play on different defenders, I wouldn’t sit on you if the ball was coming into my feet, because I know you would just kick me up in the air.

"But what I would do is, I’d drag you out of the pocket to try and get someone in behind. So there are different elements," Cahill said

“I wouldn’t fall for that,” a jovial Carragher insisted.  

Tim Cahill Jamie Carragher
Tim Cahill gets the better of Jamie Carragher in the air.
ANDREW YATES/AFP via Getty Images

 

The Liverpool defender then asked Cahill what his secret was when it came to being so good in the air. 

“Timing. Timing. I always had a good spring as a kid. You can say you did plyometrics. All these exercises. All this explosive training. But everyone can jump. It’s knowing when to run, knowing what shoulder to run off of. The defender you are up against," Cahill explained. 

"If the Defender has a non-running jump and I have a running jump, (I have an advantage) on him.

"My percentages are from making my run from the back post to near or back post to middle. My other advantage is my body when I’m in the air, I can’t be moved.

 

"But, Ancelotti said something the other day about the game being simple. The goalposts don’t move. It’s the same narrative that I keep using about the goalposts don’t move when you’re in the air. 

"So I don't need to look at the goal, I need to look at my defender, I need to see where his arms are, I need to have contact and touch and I need great contact (on the ball).

"If it’s wet I always head down so the balls skims, the goalkeeper can’t get there. If it’s dry it’s going mid-air. 

"I already know before the game if it’s wet it’s going bottom corner, it’s going with a purpose. It’s going down anywhere, the goalkeeper has got no chance, no chance unless he’s lucky. 

Carragher then went on to ask Cahill about the greatest game he ever played, which the Aussie said was the famous opening match of Australia's 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign. 

“It was the best moment of my life, but also the beginning of one the saddest," Cahill said. 

“Night before I’m starting. I’m in the room with the analysts and Luke Wilkshere is my roomy I’m going through the Japan defence, looking at the weaknesses, centre-back, left-back, right-back, the sixes. I’m looking at set-plays, where I’m going to run to score, how I’m going to score.

"The reason why I can talk like this now is cause I’m retired. Because that was always my language. When I’m going to score, how I’m going to score. There was no shadow of a doubt, in any game I played, that I wasn’t going to score. 

"So I slept like a baby, wake up the next morning, get a phone call - Graham Arnold says 'Tim, come downstairs'. 

"Go to a courtyard, Guus Hiddink is sitting across from me. 'You’re not starting today. I’m going another way tactically'. Deep down inside, I’m crying."

"Was it a big shock?" Carragher asked. 

“In the set up, I was starting all day. I always do analysis the night before because it’s fresh, I sleep on it and I manifest how I’m going to score.," Cahill said.

"Sometimes I sleep and I’ll wake up like I’ve already played the game and scored - it’s weird.

“Hiddink told me, and I didn’t tell my parents, didn’t tell my wife, didn’t tell my kids, and just bottled it.

"I thought of my teammates, thought of the country. Thought that I’m not bigger than the team, because that’s the Australian mentality. You have to wish everyone well.

"It’s the first time I’ve ever sat in the meeting at the back. Because I just couldn’t keep it in myself. I’m a very emotional character.

"My country, to a certain extent, would always come before my club. David Moyes knew it, Bill Kenwright knew it. Because I use to play on the weekend fly back to Australia, play during the week, and then fly back and play on the weekend in the Premier League.  It was just what I did. 

"I sat at the back, the players look around at me. A few consoled me. Basically, Guus Hiddink was speaking I didn’t hear anything, I knew enough, I knew we were playing Japan. I knew that potentially I would get my opportunity.

Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka started up front for Australia, with Mark Bresciano, Vince Grella and Jason Culina occupying the central midfield positions. 

 

"First half had passed and I’m looking and thinking ‘pfft if I’m on this pitch, things can happen.’ 

Cahill was eventually brought on for Bresciano in the 53rd minute. 

"I was only on the pitch for a short period of time. It was so hot, it was like a sauna. 

"‘Tim - warm up!’ Hiddink says - I look, someone is showing me a pad, forget the pad, didn’t even look at it.  Hiddink is talking to me, I’m not listening."

"And when I crossed that white line I had such an energy that it was like 'this is my stage'". 

"Did you want to prove him wrong?" Carragher asked. 

"Well, I had one of the best seasons with Everton. I’m playing on the biggest stage. I should be. I know I’m there. That’s my stage. I’ve scored in the biggest games in the Premier League. What’s there to fear really? 

"It was tactical. It was probably to tire Japan out. At the time I had had a lot of built-up feelings towards Guus for many years, I could never work out until the day I retired and started doing my coaching badges. 

"And now I can appreciate what he did - the decision you have to make as a manager. That is for the team. It’s not for the individual. 

"I went on, and scored the first-ever goal for Australia in a World Cup, and it was the most bobbly ugliest looking goal that went through three sets of legs. 

"But I already knew the day before about knockdowns, about things around the box, about being pro-active, not being reactive, don’t stand on my heels, stand forward, be ready.

"It was like that dream that I had. I don’t know how it happened, and I didn’t know it was the first goal scored for Australia in a World Cup until after the game. 

"Soon after, minutes -  the ball was played back to me I rolled it with the top of my foot. The goalkeeper stands flat-footed and I give him the eyes and it’s the first goal I’ve probably ever scored outside the 18-yard-box in my life.

"And it hit one post and went across the other side hit the other post and hit the back of the net. My second ever goal at a World Cup. All in the space of minutes. 

"And people say to me, how could that be your best game? It’s the best game because it’s the lesson of my life.

"It’s the lesson that if you play for me, and you're my player, know that you can change a game and buy into the squad and not into yourself. 

"And that’s the first time in my life that I thought it’s not about one individual, it's about how that individual can change a game when he comes on. 

"I’m going to do it with all my players, if you’re a sub, if you’re sitting in the stands you’re going to feel part of what I’m creating. 

Cahill said that despite being Australia's all-time top goalscorer, it wasn't goals that motivated him. 

“I got great pride in my country, I played every game like it was my last, I never ever focused on goals, I focused on qualifications." 

The now 40-year-old admits he does see his future in coaching.

“One of the smartest things I’ve did after retirement was to go study a little bit.

"I went and took a business, entertainment, sport, media course at Harvard, in Boston. I did 10 case studies about different things. 

Cahill has since spent six months working at Everton's academy as well as doing some work with Sky Sports where he once again came up against Roy Keane 

"I take great pride in doing TV and have a lot of respect for what people do because you’re putting yourself outside your comfort zone.

"With (TV) analysis, I use it for coaching. But I can’t see media being my final career, but one day I want to be a manager. I’m working on my pro (coaching) license. 

Cahill was asked to name his all-time five-a-side team of players he played with. 

At centre-back, Rafa Marquez who was Cahill's teammate at New York Red Bulls. 

"He played at five World Cups, and trust me if they (the Socceroos) get to the next one I might come out of retirement," Cahill joked. 

"(Marquez) played in the biggest games in the world. The way he manages a game. He gave me some leadership skills that I need. 

In midfield, Cahill picked current Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta to play along side him. 

"Simple, we have an understanding, a friendship, that we’re brothers. He showed me professionalism on and off the park.

"Mikel could touch his eye with his left hand that meant he would take a quick free which meant I would peel off the back and score a header at the back post. 

"He’ll take a quick free-kick where I jump out of the pocket and head it near post when I caught you and Pepe Reina sleeping. 

‘I’m proud of him because he doesn’t move for no one.” 

Up front, Cahill chose Thierry Henry who he also played with in New York. 

"He is demanding, the key element is giving him the ball but holding him accountable as well. He had a level of standard, that was different. 

“In training, Henry use to always get annoyed with me for kicking balls everywhere and shooting and whacking them everywhere. 

"We use to watch every Premier League game in the morning, we would sit have coffees for hours.

"We used to do a lot of stuff. He’s very opinionated. You have to give an answer with substance when speaking with him. He loved thinking games. We constantly challenged each other.

Cahill opted for a Socceroos teammate in goals. 

 

"Mat Ryan - in my opinion, he is one of the best shot-stoppers and he is good at playing with his feet.

"In big games, he shows up. I like watching him progress.

"He’s the only Australian player left in the Premier League - which is shocking really." 

 

 

 

Source SBS The World Game