The views of a slightly crazy, emotional, vodka drinking Everton supporter!
Legend is a word too often used to describe footballers these days, but for Tim Cahill no other word can come close to summing up what that man means to so many Evertonians, especially for those of us who aren't old enough to remember the likes of Alan Ball, Brian Labone, Bob Latchord and most of the 80's team. In the last 8 years, he has ran through brick walls for us, he gave Everton Football Club everything he had and much more, sometimes to his own detriment as he regularly played with injuries as he would never let the club or the fans down. He played like most of us who frequent Goodison Park would play if we ever could don that royal blue shirt....with passion, determination and a never say die attitude. Monday night's news and the subsequent reaction from fans and media types alike has been nothing short of overwhelming and shows just what Timothy Joel Falinga Cahill means and will probably always mean to Everton fans.
Back in July 2004, the general consensus amongst Evertonians when it was announced we'd agreed to sign him for £1.5 million (what a bargain that was by the way) from Championship side Millwall was "Tim who?" Apart from a bit of coverage after his semi final winning goal against Sunderland, he was a mystery to most. I knew of him through nothing more than hearing his name mentioned quite often on Soccer Saturday, so I knew he was a bit of a goalscorer but no more than that. It was a little bit of a risk signing such an unproven player but what a pay off David Moyes got during the next 8 years.
Tim's debut came on August 30th 2004 at Old Trafford. We drew 0-0 and put up our best performance there in a good while and although he was substituted midway through the second half, Cahill had instantly won me over with his performance, he played with no fear despite it being his debut in the Premier League and at such a daunting venue. From what I recall he even forced Tim Howard in goal for United that day into making a decent save. I remember thinking as he went off, applauding the away end, that I am going to really like him. The next game he played for us, coincidently in Manchester, he again left the pitch midway through the second half but for a totally different reason, but it was at this point I knew I was going to love him. Whether it was because he'd scored a great headed goal that turned out to be the winning goal (I always love seeing a header hitting the back of the net, thank Duncan Ferguson for that) or the total injustice of him being sent off by Steve Bennett for the heinous crime of lifting his shirt above his head, I don't know, but something about this hard working, goal scoring Aussie had got me.
The rest of that season was a nothing short of a dream for us Blues as we exceeded all expectations and finished 4th. Cahill epitomised the team that season as he probably over-exceeded too, he finished with an impressive total of 12 goals in all competitions and his goal against Newcastle which clinched the 4th place sent Goodison into pandemonium, something that hadn't been seen at the Old Lady in many a year. It was just his goals that made fans love him; it was Tim's love of all things Everton too. Who can forget the Carsley Derby and the pily-on celebration, who is there on the top of that mound of bodies celebrating, but Cahill. It such an iconic picture that really summed up what that whole season was about for Everton, teamwork, togetherness and team spirit. All of this Cahill played such a pivotal role in and he continued to do that in all his time here. That side of his game will be missed not just by the fans but by his team-mates too. You only have to read the Twitter conversations he has with the other players to see how much he was an integral part of things off the field and I'm sure Neville, Distin et al will miss his presence around Finch Farm and the dressing room just as much as Evertonians will miss his presence on the pitch.
Tim's goals, all 68 of them meant so much to him and us alike and nothing could beat seeing a corner flag taking a good punching from him be it at Goodison, Old Trafford, Eastlands or Stamford Bridge. His goals against Liverpool, particularly in the wins at Goodison will go down in Everton folklore just on their own. For such a small player, his heading ability was second to none, he literally towered above many a centre half who had a good few inches height advantage on him. Defenders at times could just not live with him and he scored so many classic headers especially at Eastlands, but he wasn't all about scoring, he did have other elements to his game, defensively, his heading ability was such a weapon to us when defending corners and he could set up the odd goal too, my favourite his perfectly timed through ball to Steven Pienaar for possibly my favourite goal of recent time at a snowy Emirates stadium in 2010. In recent time, he became a bit more of squad player as injuries caught up on him, but he still had an impact at times for us. When we played Manchester City at Goodison in May 2011, we were lucky to only be one down at half time, but we slowly started to turn things around and Tim's introduction in the 2nd half changed the game in our favour. Within he seconds of arriving on the pitch he got the ball, won a free kick that Distin headed home to make it 1-1. He ran around that afternoon like he was 24 again, harassing City's mega money purchases and dragging the rest of his team up to his standards and the rest of the game we dominated and deserved the win we got. Anne-Marie my Manchester City supporting mate text me after the game and said "I knew we would have no chance once that Cahill came on, he was the difference, wish he'd have a bad game against us sometimes"Other clubs fans hated him because they knew the impact he could have, but I bet they all wished he was playing for their team! The other thing that was one of Tim's major attribute's was his never say die attitude, his determination to keep on going till the last whistle, you only have to look at the number of late but vital goals he scored - equalisers at Anfield, Ewood Park and Stamford Bridge as well as at home to Tottenham and who can forget the late winners against Wigan, Sunderland, Blackburn, Manchester City and Zenit St Petersburg.
The main thing that every Evertonian respected Tim for though was how much he genuinely loved the club and the fans. Players nowadays have a reputation of being prima donnas', not in touch with reality, money grabbers. Whilst that is true of some, it's not like that for all of them and I think Tim definitely falls into the latter category. He's understood for many years now what Everton means to its fans, he has always spoken so highly of all things Everton and now he's left, I am sure he will continue to do this. He has always been so grateful to the club and particularly David Moyes for believing in him and giving him the opportunity to become a Premier League player and a very good one at that. The fact his traditional Samoan sleeve tattoo has EFC in it shows how much respect he has for the club. Tim has said himself that tattoo only reflects things that are so important to him "it shows the things that are most important to me in my life, including symbols my grandfather had all over his body. Each of the other symbols represents things like my two sons, Millwall Football Club, who obviously started my career and then Everton Football Club who have made me what I am today" Not many players who aren't born an Evertonian, let alone from this country, would do something like that unless they really "got us "and it's safe to say, Tim definitely "got us"
So as you can tell from all the above, Tim was a legend to me, but I have a personal story that makes him even more legendary in my eyes and will always keep him like that. At Ewood Park in April 2010, Tim had kept our slim European chances alive by scoring in the 90th minute in a 3-2 win. At the end of the game, all the players came to Darwin End of the ground to throw their shirts to the enormous travelling army that had gone nuts celebrating the win just seconds early. As always when the players threw the shirts into crowd I am desperate to get one, but usually have no success (apart from my brother managing to grab McFadden's at the Riverside years ago), once again I expected to have no hope as being in my wheelchair I am far too little to jump and catch anything that is thrown, but this didn't stopping barging my way to the front by the advertising hoardings. Osman's shirt was thrown over my head as Yakubu's and several other players, just as I thought all hope was lost, I saw Tim approaching with his shirt in his hand, so being a bit cheeky I was shouting asking if I could have, knowing full well he wouldn't even be able to hear me as he was that far away. He continued approaching in a direct line to me, but I still expected he'd thrown it above me once he got near to me. But he continued walking to me, the stewards stopped him, but he said something and pointed over to the direction I was in and the stewards allowed him through the cordon. As there was a young lad by mean I presumed he was going to get the shirt, but the next thing I knew Tim Cahill, the Tim Cahill was in front of me!!! I was now less than a couple of feet away from him, he flashed a beaming smile at me and said "here you go, you have that" and he gave me his shirt. It was literally one of the best moments I've ever had at the match. I can still remember my Facebook status that I put up while waiting to get out of the car park at Ewood "Words can't describe how much I really love Tim Cahill, not only has he just got us three points, but he gave me his shirt" He could have easily have thrown that into the crowd but he took the time to come over and personally give it to me. I would have been pleased to get any shirt, but to get his and in such a way was amazing. Unbeknown to me a few days after this a friend emailed me with something she'd seen that had been posted on Bluekipper about this -"There's still the remnants of an absurd post knocking around regarding Tim Cahill being over the hill and needing to be moved on. The lad is the epitome of Everton - a fighter, determined, brilliant in his particular role, the (non-creative) fulcrum of the team. When we're down and in need of inspiration he's more often than not on hand to sort us out and drag the game back in our favour. At full time today, he came right over and took off his shirt. There was a huge clamour for it, everyone wanted it. A sign of how we behold him. But no, Tim had other ideas. He singled out a lady in a wheel chair, gave a massive smile and gave her the shirt. f****** fantastic....you can stick your prima donnas where the sun don't shine. As well as making our day with his winner he made that young lady's day/week/year...the joy on her face was worth the admission fee. Tim - some may rip you, but I salute you...you're the business."
If this wasn't amazing enough, I then got to meet him at Finch Farm. I had decided to be brave and go down to see if I could get him to sign the shirt, I expected just to wait at the gates and hope he'd stop for a minute, but a friend of mine who works there said she would try to make sure he'd stop. Not only did he stop, he got out of his car, gave me a kiss, asked how I was (not sure I answered as I was in awe of him), signed the shirt and got some photographs taken with me. All I can remember saying thank you to him and he said "it is no problem at all". Again this is another moment that will leave with me forever. They say don't meet your heroes as they may ruin the image you have of them, well, I have two of mine in Tim and Duncan and they've not ruined their image only enhanced it.
After 8 years, Monday 23rd of July 2012, mine and Everton's love affair with Tim Cahill sadly came to an end with the announcement of his move to New York Red Bulls. When I heard the news I was having a meal with my line managers after day on a training course in Bath, I felt so devastated when I read the texts of mates that I wanted to cry, but I held it together, wouldn't have looked good sobbing in front of your bosses!! I finally shed a few tears when looking at the video on the official site and reading the messages from fellow fans paying tribute to him. I doubt Cahill will ever be able to read all the mentions on his Twitter timeline as nearly every Evertonian has left him a tweet of thanks and appreciation for the man who ran his heart out for our club and rescued us so many times. My one regret is that he never won a trophy with us, if any player deserved a trophy and would have appreciated it as much as us fans it would have been Tim.
One day I hope he will return to Goodison so we can say a proper goodbye to the man who came to us a relative unknown and left as a hero to so many. bluenoseamy
Follow Amy on twitter @blue_nose_amy
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