I put the question some time ago to a mate of mine (also an Everton fan) of who, in his opinion, is our best player? Several names came back: Yakubu possibly ? having looked a monumental waste of space at times early on in his time with us, he turned it around impressively over the course of last season and, if he maintained that level was starting to look good value ? this before his injury of course; Osman ? an unexpected option, but according to that dreadful clichéd saying, football is all about opinions ? a player I do like, as it happens; Jagielka was starting to make a case for himself, and of course there were the usual suspects: Cahill and Arteta.
My mate then told me he'd stake his mortgage on who I'd pick myself, and he was right. Ever since he first arrived on loan, I have been harping on to anyone who will listen, and quite a few who won't, that Mikel Arteta is a fantastic footballer. He looked a class act straight away, but I didn't realise at first quite how skilful he is, how wonderful he is to watch when he's on form.
Fantastic attitude too, and he always says the right thing when faced with the inevitable questions about his future or his international aspirations. I won't bore you all eulogising him, or bemoaning his loss to this awful injury, as you don't need to hear it again from me and in any case this piece isn't about him. It's about Cahill.
Conventional wisdom among non-Evertonians holds that it isn't our favourite Spaniard who takes top spot in our list, it's our favourite Anglo-Samoan Australian. The statistics back this up to some degree, as we get better results with him than without; though in all honesty we could probably have put our finger on that fact by gut feeling without needing to research the numbers.
It's a somewhat academic argument which of the two is better, although the thought occurs that, if we could somehow combine them into one uber-midfielder, we'd have one hell of a player on our hands... Given that we don't have an equivalent replacement for Arteta, it follows that some of the load while he is missing from the team is going to be transferred to the other players, and the first shoulders it's going to land on will be those of Cahill.
Which is unfortunate, as he's had plenty on his shoulders this season already having had to fill in for Yakubu, Saha, Vaughan and Anichebe all at the same time. And yet here's what makes Cahill the asset he is: despite being deployed in an unfamiliar role, carrying weight that would be borne by others were they available, as well as doing what he does for us as per normal, he just does it. And does it well.
It doesn't seem to matter what demands you make, or what responsibility you pile onto him, he responds to it. No moaning, no mouthing off in the press about playing out of position like certain others elsewhere have done, no complaints of tiredness. All he'll say about it is, it's an honour to play for this club in whatever position you are asked to. Class.
How lucky we are, not just to have him now when we need a player like him, but to have him at all. Here's where the trousers thing comes in: it's borrowed from Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, and the idea is that somewhere near the fly of the trousers is crucial point in time where a decision is made or an event happens, the result of which decision or event can send the subject down either leg of the trousers. If that's a bit off-the-wall for you, it's really just another way of describing the premise of Sliding Doors, the movie in which Gwyneth Paltrow's character just catches a train... or just misses it; the film explores the different paths her life would have taken in each circumstance.
Cahill's transfer from Millwall in the summer of 2004 bore similarities to either or both of these. He was all set to join newly-promoted Crystal Palace, just as Everton seemed about to self-cannibalise ? Trevor Birch was appointed chief executive and left before the sign on his office door even got changed; Bill Kenwright and Paul Gregg were too busy arguing with each other to notice he'd come or gone; after a terrible season on the pitch in 2003-04 David Moyes's stock with the fans was very low and the dressing room atmosphere was apparently thick with tension; and, to put a tin lid on it all, we were about to sell our best player.
Everton were already the bookies' favourites for the drop at this point. Into this chaos stepped the Crystal Palace chairman, who made it clear to Cahill's representatives that, while his hand was on that club's purse strings, there was no way their cut of the money in the transfer was coming from that source. They worked for the player, not Palace. An admirable stance, some might say... Cahill, meanwhile, had also attracted Moyes's attention and a deal was done (evidently to the agent's satisfaction) to sign him for Everton, and we all know what happened next over the course of 2004-05.
It's a huge over-simplification to suggest that at the fly of the trousers, as Pratchett might have it, had things turned out differently in their chairman?s office Crystal Palace would have gone down the Champions League leg on the back of Cahill's hugely impressive season and Everton down the relegation leg instead of vice versa, but rather less so to say that it's very possible both clubs would not be in quite the situation they now find themselves...
How much of this relative success we are now enjoying ? and perhaps even David Moyes?s continued employment by the club ? can be traced directly or indirectly to the signing of Cahill, and therefore hinges on the margin by which Paltrow's Crystal Palace missed that particular train, is impossible to quantify and we'll never know. But if you're into this sort of philosophical debate, consider the following argument:
Simon Jordan ? Everton legend?
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1 Posted 25/02/2009 at 08:35:03
In an era of greed and arrogance amongst our Premier League prima donnas, Cahill stands out like a beacon in the dark.
I?m lucky enough to have a ticket for the last ever ?Hall Of Fame? dinner next month, a pity it?s the final chapter as I?m certain Cahill would be included as a worthwhile candidate. He?s a great ambassador for both Everton and Australia.
2 Posted 25/02/2009 at 09:03:46
Gets you thinking doesn’t it, if only a young Shandy vDM had found his lost Transformer in that cupboard instead of that bottle of Malibu...
3 Posted 25/02/2009 at 10:17:48
4 Posted 25/02/2009 at 10:29:34
Have a banana. :o)
Top marks for the Pratchett reference, and thank God (or the [minor deity/ natural force / random cosmic quantum fluctuations] of your choice) for the floppy haired one’s misguided principles.
Here’s another one for you.... Many were cursing Tommy for his one half good season before buggering off to Madrid, however, who would have preffered an ageing Tommy over his loan replacement?
... while the Sh!te have the monopoly on the Devil’s luck, it seems we’re starting to see the benefit’s of God’s grace ;o)
5 Posted 25/02/2009 at 11:21:18
6 Posted 25/02/2009 at 11:49:50
7 Posted 25/02/2009 at 12:00:19
8 Posted 25/02/2009 at 12:07:13
9 Posted 25/02/2009 at 12:19:27
There was an article on these pages about our squad and their ages, with Neville and Cahill sticking out old boys of the team.
I was just thinking how much more can we get out of them? and to be honest I don’t see age effecting either of their games too much!? Both are model professionals who look after themselves extremely well, neither are that quick or rely on pace. Both are quite intelligent in how they approach the game, and on this note I see them only getting better.
10 Posted 25/02/2009 at 12:20:02
11 Posted 25/02/2009 at 13:14:39
If the board want to know about ?the deal of the century? look no further than Tiny Tim. He?s one of the few players we have that oppositions actually fear.
Basically, i?d let him shag me misses. ?G?d on ya mate!?
12 Posted 25/02/2009 at 13:46:22
Maybe the man is a bit too Public Schoolboy to be dealing in football for your average Liverpudlian perhaps. But what schools are the players? chlidren going to?
13 Posted 25/02/2009 at 14:18:22
Cahill has proved himself to be a gem, in every conceivable way, and you’ve highlighted allof them. On & off the pitch he is just the tops.
I remember the dark days you allude to, and finishing that season with one of the worst, if not the actual worst, run of results in our history.
It makes an interesting comparison to look at the team then and now, and particularly in terms of internationals or top class performers or "captain" types.
Back then, in early Moyes days, we had Nigel Martyn, the Grav and a young Jobo.
Now we have the fabulous Cahill and Arteta, but equally we have Neville, Pienaar, Yakubu, Howard, Jagielka, Jobo, Lescott, Baines and Saha. Our kids also look like the right sort, Rodwell & the Goose, but there are others. And even Jo looks up for it.
I guess what I’m saying, by implication, is that we have a fabulous collection of, not just footballers, but the right kind of footballers. Strong, young, mature, skillful and so many of captain material.
Deep down I think most premiership teams would give their eye teeth for Arteta & Cahill. They happen to both have god-like status in our household. But outside of ManU and, possibly, Chelsea, I don’t see many or any teams having such backbone throughout their whole squad. Even Arsenal have a few woosses.
Cahill is arguably the best signing in the history of the premiership. But Arteta (in his best position) must be close.
14 Posted 25/02/2009 at 06:24:11
15 Posted 25/02/2009 at 14:45:05
I’m panicking just thinking about it...
Steve Bruce - Legend
16 Posted 25/02/2009 at 15:52:26
Doesn’t bear thinking about.
17 Posted 25/02/2009 at 16:06:54
Thank you too, Stewart. Interesting.
Listen mate, if you have a bit of spare time on your hands maybe you’d like to come and do my gardening,too. Then me and ’er indoors can go out for lunch...
18 Posted 25/02/2009 at 22:48:01
19 Posted 27/02/2009 at 23:08:59
@ Alan Kirwin, can’t disagree that Cahill might be the best signing in the history of the Premier League, but he’s got a fair bit of competition among his own team-mates. Everton must be the best-value team in the Prem.