Gary Cahill gets another crack at breaking into the England team

 

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. Pardon the pun.

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. Cahill is a throwback in that sense. He tackles, he wins headers and puts his body on the line – quite a contrast with his recent defensive partner at Chelsea, David Luiz, who prefers a more unorthodox approach to the job.

It took Cahill a long time to win his first England cap, and he was harshly overlooked more than once, but he is not the complaining type.

There was a time when no international week was complete without a late call-up for Cahill. On three occasions in 2009 he was called upon by Fabio Capello to replace injured players named in the original squad. First for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Andorra in June that year, again for the double-header against Slovenia and Croatia in September and then again the following month for the games against Ukraine and Belarus.

In none of these games did Cahill play even a minute. Neither did he play against Brazil in Qatar in November 2009, the first time he was named in an original squad by Capello.

He was injured for the March 2010 friendly against Egypt and missed out altogether on that summer's World Cup squad. Named in the first post-tournament squad for the friendly against Hungary, Cahill still found himself on the outside. Finally, in September 2010, 15 months after he was first called up by England – and the sixth time he had been part of a squad – 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, for now, 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," Cahill said.

"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 was in the stand a lot of the time and only getting called in when people could not make it or were out. 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."

At Chelsea, Cahill has developed a reputation as a straight-talker, never more so than when he said his team "fell to pieces" against Atletico Madrid in Friday's European Super Cup. Thriving in the Champions League has undoubtedly changed perceptions of him which in turn has helped with his profile with England.

"Going to Chelsea pushed me on and made me learn," he said. "I think it gave me a chance to play in the big games that people said I had not played in. That was the main thing. People would say I was OK but hadn't played in the big games. It gave me an opportunity to do that.

"That experience brought me on but also made me more hungry because I just want to be part of more games like that. Many of the players who don't come from the big clubs have always got that. 'Can he do it in the big games?' Certainly coming from Bolton, I was not playing in the Champions League and that was always going to be a question mark over my head."

He admitted he can be too honest for his own good when it comes to his own performances but if that is a fault then it is not such a bad one. For an English footballer who had to take a step down from Aston Villa to Bolton before going back up to Chelsea, his story is a good example of what can be achieved.

Cahill in figures

6 Squads Cahill was called up to before he made his debut.

£7m His transfer fee from Bolton Wanderers to Chelsea in January.

0 Yet to play in a World Cup or European Championships.

3 Has been picked by three coaches for his 10 caps.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor