Tim Cahill, the only player in the Premier League with a Dickensian nickname, leaves

July 25, 2012 in Premier League, Transfers

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…And personified corner flags across the country breathe a collective sigh of relief. This can only mean one thing. Yes, Everton’s Australian and long term talisman, Tim Cahill, is leaving the club where he has played for eight years.

Cahill is arguably the most important Everton player of the past decade. Earning the Dickensian nickname ‘Tiny Tim’, Cahill’s work rate and fight were signifiers of Moyes’ Everton. As a player, in many ways Cahill defined Everton’s footballing attitude. A defiance and willingness to punch above their weight and displaying morale that was unseen in Walter Smith’s side.

Signed from Millwall in 2004 for a nominal 1.5 million, Cahill would prove unfazed by the step up. While the squad was desperately in need of a midfield player who could steal goals and disrupt defences, it was a surprise to everyone just how quickly Cahill moved into the team and became a key player.

No stranger to the yellow card, winding up and generally making things difficult for his opponents, he was one of those players you love at your team but would hate to be playing against. In the absence of Wayne Rooney, many supporters, Evertonian or otherwise, predicted a turbulent season for the Toffees in 2004. With 12 goals in his first season (his best haul in the Premier League) and a fourth place finish for Everton, Cahill had announced himself to the Goodison faithful. He finished the season as Everton’s top scorer and was voted the fans’ player of the season.

Cahill’s strongest attributes as a player were his positioning and his heading ability. The intelligence of his runs and predatory instinct made Cahill a real scourge for the opposition, headers from set-pieces and scrambled steals from chaos in the box, with the odd cracker.

A derby day general, Cahill was the first player since Dixie Dean to score in three consecutive Merseyside derbies.  It’s a cliché that in this country we value heart, work rate and ‘playing for the shirt’ (see Scott Parker’s inclusion in the England team), and in many ways Cahill was one of those players. However, when you can score regularly for a notoriously low scoring Everton side and then continually foul Stevie G, is it any wonder the Goodison faithful, who have had their fair share of one hit wonders, would latch onto a player who does this nigh on every season?

Despite all of this, I am not disappointed to see Cahill leave. Throughout the entirety of last season, I found myself increasingly frustrated with his constant inclusion in the starting line-up, and at times it felt like he was offering nothing to the side. This may seem harsh, but even when a player performs so consistently for so long, there is no place for romanticism or unconditional favourites in the Premier League.

I think ultimately Cahill had burned out. Seemingly playing through constant perpetual injury, with a determination to perform both nationally and at club level perhaps beyond his means, it was always going to be hard to maintain the energy level intrinsic to his game. A model professional (no assault to his name), Cahill is truly iconic, not just as an Evertonian, but an ambassador for Australian football, with many notable performances and important goals, including an invaluable goal against Japan during the Socceroos’ World Cup 2006 campaign.

Clearly I’m biased, but surely Cahill is a recent Premier League icon. The relative rarity of a good Australian player (that was cheap), the kind of lame but ‘signature’ celebration, the fact that he wasn’t tall but only scored headers? Come on guys, he was on the cover of FIFA!