Cahill bids to forget Euro agony with another crack at breaking into team


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The Independent Online

Gary Cahill can remember the moment of impact back in June and the "crack", as he describes it, as his jaw collided with the shoulder of Joe Hart. When the Chelsea man recounted that moment this week, he said he knew then that any chance of playing at the European Championship was over.

It had been a remarkable six months for Cahill, 26, who had been bought by Chelsea from struggling Bolton Wanderers in January and gone on to play in the victorious Champions League run, including the final in Munich.

He had worked his way up the hierarchy of centre-halves with the national team, to the point where he looked like the man most like likely to partner John Terry at Euro 2012.

Then, in the 17th minute of that friendly against Belgium he chased a ball back towards Hart and was shoved recklessly in the back by the winger Dries Mertens.

"If you're going to run into someone, Joe Hart is not the best person to chose," Cahill reflected. "I probably should have run into Ashley Young or somebody like that."

He can joke about it now but missing Euro 2012, given how much he had put into his international career, was difficult to swallow.

For four weeks, Cahill had his broken jaw wired together and metal plates inserted in his face while the bones set. He was restricted to soft food and cleaning his teeth was, he admits, a problem. Such is life occasionally for that traditional breed of centre-half. It took Cahill a long time to win his first England cap, and he was harshly overlooked more than once by the previous manager Fabio Capello.

Finally, in September 2010, 15 months after he was first called up by England, Cahill made his debut as a substitute against Bulgaria. Since then, he has become a regular although Joleon Lescott's performances at Euro 2012 mean that the Manchester City player is probably ahead of him in the pecking order.

"We will have to wait and see the selection for the next two games but I certainly feel I am fighting to get myself back in, and rightly so," said Cahill. "It was unfortunate I couldn't make the impact I wanted to, but I have started the season OK with Chelsea and I just need to fight to get myself back in there.

"There were many times when I travelled with England when I didn't even get on the pitch. I suppose doing that makes you appreciate it a bit more when you do get a chance. Now the fact I feel I can fight for a place is pleasing."