Chelsea captain Gary Cahill, written off earlier this season for the umpteenth time since joining six years ago from Bolton, has completed yet another personal comeback, proving that he has more lives than a cat, more escapes than Houdini, more comebacks than Jay-Z.
On Saturday, he was the first to lift the FA Cup trophy, the second of his Chelsea career, putting a fine end to the week that also saw him recalled to England for the World Cup. It’s been a strong end to the season for the 32-year-old, who had dropped below both Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen in the pecking order for much of the season
But with the latter showing some fatigue and youthful struggles at the business end of the season and David Luiz permanently injured, Cahill was pressed back into service, at a previously unfamiliar position in the center of the back three. He had been tried there a couple times before, without much success, but this time, all he’s done is emerge as the preferred option, using his veteran wiles to calm things down and reduce the shakiness of the defensive unit, especially in games where Chelsea could expect to play a bit deeper.
That idea is certainly not unfamiliar to Cahill, who’s been at the center of some of Chelsea’s greatest defensive efforts of the past decade. He, perhaps more than any other current Chelsea player knows the effort that is needed to keep a clean sheet like Saturday’s 1-0 win over Manchester United.
“It was, we had to work tremendously hard in this game to defend. As you’d expect, they had a lot of ball and we got the one-nil lead and they pushed us hard especially late on in the second half, as you’d expect with that scoreline.
“They’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain and so they gambled and we had to defend very well today. The lads were absolutely superb, stuck to their task. On top of that, a few vital saves from Thibaut.”
Gary Cahill, he’s won it all. Some twice, even.
What the future might hold for Cahill, entering the final year of his current Chelsea contract, remains unclear. But if the last two months have proved anything, it’s that there is still space — nay, a need — in this squad for some veteran leadership, even if that veteran leadership is “only” Gary Cahill, no exactly the people’s champion.
“Yeah, exactly, your rewards when you work hard and you stay focused and you’ve got a bit of character. You know people writing you off all the way through the season left right and center and yet I’m in the World Cup squad and I’ve got another FA cup [that makes two] to my name so …
“I don’t mean that to be arrogant by any means, I mean that because I work hard and I show character and give everything I can give. As did my teammates today, hence why we got the win.”
-Gary Cahill; source: BT Sport
Character. Hard work. Pride in his teammates. That’s stuff that captains — and comebacks — are made of.