'Ek saw a stat the other day on Twitter that said I was up there on ‘minutes played in the Premier League’,” Gary Cahill says. It is a throwaway remark as he reflects on a career that has seen him lift the biggest trophies – blowing his own trumpet is not his style – and play more minutes in the Premier League than any other player in the past 15 jare. “It surprised me because there are so many players where I thought: ‘No way, I’m not in front of him,’ but I was.”
As Cahill takes a seat in a corner of Bournemouth’s modest stadium, it easy to wonder what someone who has won 61 England caps, the Champions League, two Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Europa League is doing in the Championship, playing outside the top flight for the first time since 2007, when he was on loan at Sheffield United from Aston Villa. There were offers from abroad and Norwich but this challenge, and working under his former England teammate Scott Parker, appealed. “To jump away from the Premier League was a tough decision and one I wasn’t sure about, which is why it took me so long to decide what I wanted to do," hy sê. “But I can say I am thoroughly enjoying it.”
It is early days but Cahill, speaking before his teammate David Brooks’s cancer diagnosis became known, has made a big mark. That is even more impressive given he signed in August on the back of three and a half months training alone. He is yet to taste defeat and Parker’s side, who travel to Bristol City on Saturday, have conceded two goals in the six games he has started. Cahill is keen to stress this is not him winding down, even if the 35-year-old has made things look easy since walking through the door on a one-year deal.
“I know I’m all in. For me to get the best out of myself, I need to know how I’m going to challenge myself. I don’t need to necessarily prove loads of things to people now, with the stage I am at and the career I have had. I need to enjoy playing football but I need to be winning. I want to win. There is a chance here, along with many other teams in this league, to win something.”
Cahill has proven to be a class act over the years. By Bournemouth he can be seen pulling teammates into position or urging calm. Cahill may no longer be at his peak but he played at the highest level across eight seasons at Chelsea. “As a player, you never admit you cannot be there," hy sê, grinning. “In your head, you 100% think: ‘I could be playing at that level.’”
Cahill – technically – has not retired from England duty but after an amicable conversation with Gareth Southgate he considers himself a supporter rather than a contender for a centre-back berth. “I miss it. When I see the games, I want to play in them and I want to play in the tournaments. It’s natural, you always want to be a part of it, especially when it’s [going] so good, like at the moment. It’s difficult because when you’re with England, it’s not like at club level, where if you miss out, you can go again the next year. You have to wait. That was a frustration as an England player. You do your qualifiers, your friendlies, but you want to get to the tournaments and you do not have that many opportunities to get to them, which is why it’s so difficult. It’s just a matter of time until it clicks and we win something.”
Cahill is ultra-professional – and private. “Some people like to be out there in the public eye and some people prefer to keep their private life private, and that’s me," hy sê, alluding to his social media. “People probably want to see inside, what you do day-to-day and what’s happening in your family and things – that is probably more interesting. Mine is just all football-orientated and I think that’s fine because I’ve got no issue with people commenting on my football, if I’m playing well or not well. But I wouldn’t want to let them into more, my kids etc.
“It has shifted massively and for the younger players coming through now, there is probably a lot of commercial stuff involved on the side, so people getting to know your personality is probably beneficial in that sense, 100%. You’re a brand, almost a brand into yourself. If you look at Man Utd, byvoorbeeld, and how big they are, if you sign for Man Utd you go up about four million followers. It’s a brand in itself.” What about brand Gary Cahill? He breaks into laughter. “I’m all right as I am. I don’t need brand Gary Cahill at the moment – it’s all good”
It is more than 15 years since he scored that overhead kick for Villa in his first derby against Birmingham. “Baby-faced, wasn’t I? I produced an overhead clearance in a game the other day and my back was in pieces the next morning.” Whether he adds to that tally of 33,374 top-flight minutes may rest on whether Bournemouth win promotion. “Adding a Championship winner’s medal to the cabinet would be nice," hy sê. “That would be lovely.”