It is well documented what kind of footballer Gary Cahill is, but in speaking to the man, it was easy to understand from the decorated professional the mentality needed to take on the Championship and why having a strong mind-set is of much value as playing ability.
Yesterday’s ‘conference’ took a different formality as a handful of journalists all grabbed a chair to sit in a close-knit circle, up close and personal with Mr Cahill.
Despite it being his daughter’s birthday, Cahill seemed to be in no rush as we delved into our questions which resulted in laughs and some deep insight into the man who has been there and done that.
Through conversation, it was very easy to see why Scott Parker wanted Gary Cahill. It is well known that Parker was in frequent conversation with the 35-year-old throughout the summer in order to lure him to the south coast. Cahill’s leadership and mentality for sure was at the front of the head coach’s reasoning, as Parker laid out his squads plans and ambitions.
As admitted by Cahill, there were opportunities to resume his football in the top-flight, but as he spoke on his decision-making process, it brought reassurance that this was a player determined to continue achieving success and win trophies.
On the decision made in the summer, Cahill said:
“I could have stayed in the Premier League, but the days of challenging for the title and playing Champions League football have obviously gone past.
“So, the decision in the summer was, what is going to drive me for this next season?
“Am I just going to add appearances to my Premier League record or is it going to be another challenge where I come into an exciting group, with a new manager and young squad, who are fighting for promotion.”
The Championship is renowned for being a standard that you don’t quite see in any other league. It is a challenge that players want to take on as it forces them to think differently, play differently and ultimately puts them in an environment where they have to adapt all aspects of their game.
Players that understand this from the get-go, know that this firstly comes from your mind-set. It is easy for some people to think coming from the Premier League to a league below is a ‘step-down’ but this is not the case.
Cahill is a prime example of a professional that understands the mentality required, and there is never a chance to let your foot off the gas.
He stated: “It was always going to be new and different, and obviously I have to adapt.
“I should always play the games knowing it’s going to be very tough.
“The minute you try and think you’ve dropped down a level and it’s going to be easier; it is a very dangerous attitude, and definitely one I’m not going to have.
“The way I approach a game is that we need to get three points every game, and that’s the mind-set everyone should have.
“To be strong mentally in football is equally as important as having the ability.”
It is a young squad that Parker heads, and we have seen examples so far this season where a lack of experience has been evident i.e., Blackpool at home. Having signed Cahill only a day before, it was a perfect example to illustrate the reasons as to why he was introduced.
The ability to manage games in certain situations and being able to have the mind-set to learn from experience is vital to how teams will achieve success in this league.
Although not stating this is what he will personally bring to the squad, he acknowledged that the team will grow over the season in these aspects which have as much value as the ball playing ability.
Speaking to Nerve Sport, Cahill expressed:
“I see this squad as being very young, very exciting, very energetic and I think we’ll grow along the way in terms of experience.
“When I say experience, I mean in terms of managing games in certain situations.
“You need a balance of everything.
“These boys have been through that experience and now hopefully they know if that happened again, they would know how to go about it.”
As Cahill says, the team will develop in these aspects over the course of the season, but Saturday’s home victory to Barnsley was a clear sign of improvement in a short space of time. Going into half-time with only a one goal margin, against a side such as Barnsley, it is easy to let the side back into the game as we saw versus Blackpool.
However, the Cherries continued their momentum, continued to dominate, and came out clear winners. You cannot help but think the presence of Cahill on his debut had a significant role in this improvement, as the side looked relaxed, organised, and full of confidence throughout the 90.
As well as being an outstanding defender, the mentality that Cahill has been able to develop over his vast career will be something the young players will absorb and take with them as the squad continue to grow and strive for success.