Gary Cahill is a team man, a club man, a man of character. He’s not given to drama. He chooses his words carefully. So if he’s implying that Antonio Conte’s season-long drama affected the players, then it did.
He didn’t come right out and say it. That would make his position at the club difficult. But he doesn’t really need to. All he needs to do is acknowledge the obvious. With the season finally over and reporters prodding him after winning the FA Cup, he probably calculated that it would finally be safe for him to touch on the topic. Delicately, of course.
“Certainly, we feel the sense of uncertainty. That’s obvious to everyone in the last few months. As players we have no impact on that situation [with Conte]. If I was a betting man, I’m sure the club and the manager will have spoken. Let’s see.
”I’m sure the manager will make the best decision for himself and his family, and the club will make what they feel is the best decision. It’s totally out of our hands. All I can say is it’s been a great finish. If the manager stays on then he stays on, if he doesn’t then he’s gone away with an FA Cup.”
-Gary Cahill; source ESPN
(Ed.note: no impact!? If all y'all would've played better, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place! Anyway...)
Message delivered with maximum tact. That’s the experience of fourteen years as a professional footballer and six years at pressure-cooker Chelsea showing. He’s just as tactful in urging Conte and the board to get on with it, to settle their differences sooner rather than later.
“I probably want the uncertainty to be put to bed and for whatever is going to happen, to happen. Naturally, we will see what happens with the club. I don’t really want to speak about it. Today is about celebrating the FA Cup. It is out of our hands.
“We fell short in some aspects this season but today we produced and the rest behind the scenes is not down to us. So we will wait and see.“
-Gary Cahill; source: Goal
Chelsea ended-up fifth in the Premier League. That’s our the third-worst finish since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. (Tenth in 2015-16 and sixth in 2011-12 being the other two.) The gap to first was a yawning 30 points. The new year saw a slide from second place from which the club never recovered. We struggled to score. Internal friction was on display. There was speculation that Conte had lost his players.
A disaster, then? Not to Cahill. He thinks that Chelsea are in good shape.
“I feel we’ve done it again. Of course it’s not the Premier League -- that wasn’t to be, Manchester City have been [a] different class this year -- and obviously we’d like to be in the Champions League positions, but surely you’re judging clubs by what they win over periods of years.
Judging by [our results] week in week out our form can be up and down, but over a long period of time, you get a proper average of what’s going on. I think this football club is very healthy.
”I felt the pressure before the game. We really had to win to save the season -- and when I say that, I don’t mean save it in terms of all of a sudden it’s a massive success, but at the same time it’s an FA Cup and we’ve won a trophy this year, which is very difficult to do.”
-Gary Cahill; source: ESPN
He isn’t wrong. Despite all the hand-wringing that’s a natural part of the fan experience in all sports, Chelsea have indeed assembled a formidable record of success. When the passions of this season have cooled, the club’s strengths — its owner’s will to win, emerging young players in Rudiger, Bakayoko, Andreas Christensen and Morata, a solid core of veterans in Kante, Hazard, Azpilicueta and Courtois -- will emerge.
That’s the bigger picture to which Cahill is referring. Even more than that, and as befits the club captain, he sees unity.
“We are going to celebrate all together as a team, as a tight-knit family. As I said, you have to enjoy these moments and they don’t come around every day. Who knows whether we will be in another FA Cup final, you never know, so enjoy the moment. I think the whole season almost built up to this day, where we had to try and rescue and produce today.
”That goes for all the staff and everyone who delivers behind the scenes. We had to try to deliver a trophy. When you look at it in terms of last year we got the Premier League title and this year was the FA Cup, it is not too bad. Two years, two titles and one runners-up. Like I said the other day, for me that is success.”
-Gary Cahill; source: Goal
For Cahill, it’s not over yet. He’s off to the World Cup in search of more glory. It’s a scenario that seemed improbable two months ago. But when you’re a man of character, good things happen.