Assistant NSNO Editor Tom Power looks back over the Everton career of talisman Tim Cahill, and pays his own tribute to a man who gave him comfort during a particularly difficult time in his life.
That was my reaction on initially hearing the news that Everton had signed an Australian midfielder from Millwall for £1.5m. Back then, 24 year old Tim had helped inspire the then Championship outfit to a FA Cup final showdown with Manchester United (a match they would go on to lose 3-0) but even after that, as a 16 year old, I was still sceptical over whether he could cut it in the harshest league in the world, the English Premier League.
Eight years on, and after 68 precious memories, my reaction to the news that the diminuitive talisman was leaving Everton was not only one of sadness and loss, but strangely also of pleasure; pleasure to have seen our number 17 turn out in the Royal Blue for eight seasons of highs and lows.
You see, Tim Cahill wasn’t just another footballer who earned a living by ‘kicking a ball around on a field for 90 minutes’ (as non-football fans constantly bleat); he was a humble individual who worked hard to achieve his dream of becoming a professional footballer in one of football’s leading leagues. His story of leaving his home in Australia to pursue a career in football is emotionally charged, but one that does produce a happy ending.
Leaving his mother, father and brothers behind, Cahill set off for the UK midway through the year 1997, alone, in search of an opportunity to provide a better life for him and his family. It was not an opportunity without its struggles. Despite being deemed too small and technically not sound enough at a much younger age, living in a foreign country with no support base surpassed all those previous dismissals, and it would be enough to send any lonely teenage individual to the brink of giving up. Yet he persevered and, after securing a contract at Millwall and pushing himself into the limelight during Millwall’s cup run, David Moyes took the gamble to bring ‘Tiny Tim’ to Goodison Park.
And what a gamble it turned out to be. The first player to score in three derbies at Anfield since William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean, Tim wrote himself into Everton folklore and Evertonian hearts. His battling displays, his willingness to work for the greater good of the team, his never-say-die attitude and his invaluable goals all contributed towards ensuring that the now 32 year old would be spoken of fondly following his time on Merseyside. And what other superlatives have we not thrown his way over his ability to hang in the air for what seems like eons, to consistently find the space in front of his marker, and power home one of his trademark headers? ‘The Blue Kangaroo’ is quite possibly the best header of the ball I’ve seen in the flesh.
The goals against Liverpool, Chelsea, City, United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Sunderland (to name but a few) will stay with me for the rest of my life, but it is a goal against Wigan that particularly sticks out for me as I look back on Tim’s time at Everton.
Bear in mind this is a personal story of mine, but it gave me solace in a time that there seemed like there was nothing to cling to.
I had spent the afternoon and evening of January 30th 2010 at my regular job so I was unable to watch, or ever listen to, Everton’s encounter with Wigan Athletic that day. After returning home following that shift, I was greeted with the heartbreaking news that one of my grandfathers had passed away. Like me, he was a staunch Evertonian and attended many, many matches, both home and away, supporting a club that meant so much to him. Naturally, I was heartbroken and wound up spending the evening with my family, trying to come to terms with what I had heard. At one point during the evening, however, I retired to my own room to contemplate further the magnitude of the news. It was there that I unconsciously uncovered my old Everton memorabilia box (we all have one) and flicked through a couple of old programmes that my grandfather gave to me when I started supporting the Blues to assist me in learning about the club I would grow to love unconditionally. For a split second, I marvelled at the worn pages of Latchford, Lyons and Hurst and wondered what it would have been like to see them in the flesh.
It was then that I remembered that Everton had actually played that afternoon whilst I was in work. Turning on the TV, I remembered that we’d played Wigan at the JJB Stadium. Bringing up the final scores on the screen, I prayed that we had won and there, in front of my eyes, stood the words:
Wigan 0- 1 Everton (Cahill, 84’).
I looked to the Heavens and, unconsciously, burst into floods of tears.
It was days later that I realised the full extent of why I felt that sudden surge of emotion. I knew that my granddad would have been listening to the match on the radio moments before he passed away, and the last goal he would ever hear would be Cahill’s effort as he buried his shot past the Wigan goalkeeper into the net to earn Everton a precious three points on a cold, January afternoon.
For that especially, I thank you Tim. You gave me solace and comfort when it was difficult to find any during that time and, whilst you may never be aware of it, you gave me something to hold onto that night.
You have brought a worldwide audience to Everton an introduced new fans to our global community. Your tireless support of the ‘Justice for the 96’ Hillsborough campaign has been tremendous and inspirational. You are a hero and an icon to me and many Evertonians, and I wish you the best of luck in your career and everything else that follows.
God speed, Tim.
P.S- Don’t leave it too long to return to the Old Lady as a fan now, will you?