Somewhere along the way, Gary Cahill has become a Chelsea institution.
Signed as a Christmas 2011 present towards the latter days of AVB’s tenure, mini-Mourinho didn’t rate him much and used him sparingly and only in desperation. But the former Bolton standout fit Roberto Di Matteo’s plans once the Chelsea Spring was underway, and a few months later Cahill found himself lifting the Champions League trophy in Munich. He has not looked back since, winning just about every significant trophy available to him at club level, including the Premier League twice while becoming one of Mourinho’s undroppables in 2014-15 and then rising from the dead last year — most expected him to be discarded alongside Branislav Ivanović and John Terry — reinvented as an unlikely regular in Conte’s three-man defence.
These days, Cahill is not only Chelsea’s oldest non-goalkeeper, he’s club captain and one of the leaders among active players in games played alongside Eden Hazard and César Azpilicueta, both summer 2012 arrivals. On Saturday, he joined the former and 53 others in Chelsea’s 250 club. (Azpi is next and very close as well.)
If you had asked me back in the winter of 2011-12 if Cahill was about to embark on such a career at Chelsea, winning every trophy and becoming the 55th player in our history to make 250 appearances, I would’ve undoubtedly laughed off the question. I wasn’t alone then, and it’s not like Cahill is universally adored even now. But that probably makes the accomplishment even more sweeter!
Ahead of yesterday’s game, Cahill maintained his belief of Chelsea’s ability to dig in and snap out of this funk. “People say cream rises to the top and eventually we will get it right and will get back to those levels,” said the captain, before he and the rest of the Blues dug in and eventually got it right against Watford. Rising to the top against all odds? Sounds like Cahill’s career in a nutshell, too.
With Cahill going on 32, and with just two years left on his contract, his time at Chelsea could be winding down sooner rather than later. Still time to appreciate our heroes.