In the Modern day game of Association Football, characterised by mercenaries, champagne life styles, fast cars, strippers, night club brawls, racism, and all round low morals and life values, it's extremely encouraging when you happen across someone who can genuinely be called a professional.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not labelling all footballers, not even the majority, within the brackets I have outlined in my opening paragraph, but a much higher percentage than ever before can be placed into one of these categories. However, it does seem very rare these days that "the shirt" and "badge" of the club most professional footballers play for and represent has any meaning to them beyond the often astronomical weekly wages being paid to them for going through more motions than an Indian tourist after week one in Delhi. You see, there are not many footballers who understand the word "loyalty" and can thus demonstrate it's characteristics during their careers.
The modern day game has become very frustrating for many football fans, as their teams lose players to mega rich clubs happy to splash their excessive bag loads of cash around, picking players to enhance their squads and warm their benches for thousands more a week. "And good luck to them", many say. "It's a short career", "they should take what they can whilst they can". I can't disagree completely with the sentiment, but let's face it, professional footballers are millionaires within a couple of months these days and are made for life within a two-three years, so the argument that a first team regular at one club should swap 'playing football' for a higher wage and a seat on the sidelines at another does not wash with me. When did footballers swap the desire to play football for the apparent singular desire to make the biggest wad of cash within the shortest time frame possible? But, we've seen that the crippling wage demands of players is ladling clubs with debts they can't afford to reduce.
The wages players are paid is not the central theme of this blog but the point is very relevant to understanding the price of "loyalty", something that Tim Cahill has more than ably demonstrated in the eight years he has been a servant of Everton Football Club. Yesterday evening, the club announced they had accepted an offer from the New York Red Bulls to acquire the services of Tim Cahill in exchange for £1M. For those of us, like Tim himself, who Tweet, it was heart warming to see the outpouring of respect for the man, described by myself and many other Evertonians as a "living legend". The word "legend" is bandied about far too easily these days, but it's hard to argue that Cahill doesn't deserve the description.
At Everton, we are more privileged than many other Premier League clubs in respect of the 'type' of players we have. We don't have any "superstars", no one constantly in the papers for misdemeanours (Pienaar is still officially a Spurs player, so the speeding fines don't count!) , no one who is constantly in the lime light known for going out and having a raucous night out on the lash in Liverpool (or any other city), not since "Shandy Andy" and maybe another more recent Dutch compadre, that is. In recent years, despite all the doom and gloom around certain aspects of the way Everton Football Club is run and managed, there has been much positive talk of the 'team spirit' at the club. Cahill is someone who embodies 'team spirit' in his conduct and in his performances. You can see he is well liked and respected by his fellow professionals, and away supporters - particularly Liverpool fans - speak of him in more derogatory terms. This latter point is oddly more a mark of respect in the context of the way football fans speak. I've witnessed Cahill first hand on numerous occasions when Everton have stayed away in hotels. The most memorable, for some reason, was the away trip to AEK Athens on 2nd December 2009. On check out the next morning, a number of the players come into the lobby of the hotel, where I was stood, so we started chatting about the game the night before. When Tim entered the lobby, there was real camaraderie about him and his interaction with his fellow professionals, especially the more junior players, who obviously looked up to him. Despite the fact he jumped ahead of me (he's always been good at jumping) in the check out queue, for which Fizzer apologised on his beh alf, his pleasant and warm demeanor was there for all to see. And it wasn't the first or last time I witnessed such interaction. Respect is something that must be earned in all walks of life but often not too easily in the world of football world. So, what I witnessed on numerous occasions in more closer personal quarters than in a stand at a football stadium, is something that spoke volumes to me about the way team mates held Cahill in such high personal esteem - respected and admired.
Cahill has always impressed me in the way he has conducted himself during his eight years at Everton Football Club. Talk is cheap, but he's backed it up by walking the walk and demonstrating the characteristics of the principals and values that have made him into the Goodison legend that he, no doubt, is. You would be hard pressed to find many Evertonians, my grouchy pessimistic and all too negative 73 year Father included, who would disagree with this statement. The Everton mantra "Nil Satis Nisi Optimum" has been less relevant to the teams achievements since our last league title success in 1987, but Everton fans appreciate the hard work and effort employed by players wearing the shirt and - in this respect - "nothing satisfies but the best" is something that can always be attributed to Cahill.
When I think of Tim Cahill, I smile. For his goals against the sh*te, for his 1st goal for the club in a win away at Manchester City and then unfortunately being sent off, for his corner flag boxing routines, for the overhead kick at Stamford Bridge, for his bravery, for his aerial ability, for his passion, for his loyalty, for his professionalism, for twating the ball into the roof of the net of the Gwladys Street end against the Sh*te, for his goals at vital moments, for his eight years service.
In a world - extending beyond football - lacking in many true Role Models, Tim Cahill has been and continues to be a role model for any youngster coming into the professional game. He will be sorely missed by the Goodison faithful, his manager, his team-mates, but always welcome and never forgotten.
Best wishes for the future Tim. Alan Newton. @AlanRNewton
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