THE tweet said it all, in considerably less than 140 characters.
“Tim Cahill’s market value £1m, his sentimental value, priceless.”
The tributes were numerous and sincere when it was announced this week that Everton had agreed a ‘nominal’ fee with New York Red Bulls for the transfer of their pugnacious little Socceroo.
Cahill was a midfielder who couldn’t pass, his tackling lacked discipline and his pace was modest.
But he became one of the most valuable members of an Everton side which regularly qualified for Europe and reached an FA Cup final – and one of the best loved Blues of recent years.
Team-mate Tim Howard memorably described him as “an annoying little gnat.”
But it was only ever opposition defenders who were annoyed.
Signed from Millwall in the summer of 2004 for a £1.7m fee, rising to £2m, Cahill’s Everton debut was delayed by his involvement in the Athens Olympics.
He made a belated bow in the spectacular setting of Old Trafford on August 30, 2004 – a creditable goalless draw – then 12 days later exploded into Evertonian consciousness.
He scored the kind of goal which would become his trademark – arriving late in the penalty area to score a headed winner at Manchester City . . . then was red-carded for lifting his shirt above his head in celebration.
It was the only goal of the game – and the first of 29 occasions that Cahill would score the only goal of a game for Everton Football Club.
Only Dixie Dean did it more.
Cahill also shared the record for international goals scored while at Everton with Dean – his 18 Australian strikes comparing favourably with Dean’s England goals, while the three goals he scored for the Toffees at Anfield was also a feat nobody else had achieved since the Dean era.
To be spoken of once in the same breath as the immortal Dixie would indicate significant influence on the club, but Cahill managed it three times.
But it wasn’t just his goal scoring which commanded respect.
His attitude and his in your face abrasiveness proved infectious.
It was May 2011 when Manchester City’s multi-talented visitors were sent home pointless from Goodison by a Cahill inspired Everton.
Monday’s match report underlined his impact.
“Everton were a team transformed from the moment Cahill replaced Jack Rodwell.
“Up until that moment Everton had been tentative, safe, respectful – and utterly outplayed by a David Silva-inspired City.
“Cahill’s introduction changed all that within seconds.
“He wrestled with Patrick Vieira and won a free-kick in a dangerous position. He messed City around before Arteta’s delivery, shoving and pushing, making sure all City eyes were on their jinx.
“And that allowed Sylvain Distin the time and space to ghost in and plant a header past the scrambling Joe Hart when the free-kick arrived.
“But more than that he gave Everton a spikiness, an edge that had been missing.
“Rather than admire City’s silky approach play they tried to disrupt it. Rather than try to play City at their own game they opted for a more direct approach. And rather than settle for a meritorious point they pushed for a winner.
“And Leon Osman’s glorious, soaring header gave them it.
“It was a remarkable transformation and one that had looked unlikely prior to Cahill’s arrival.
“Everton are at their best when they get about their opponents. Osman and Neville can always be relied upon to get in a visitor’s face, but the introduction of the abrasive Australian proved infectious and everybody embraced the idea.”
That was almost a Tim Cahill swansong.
He did score goals after that appearance, but his influence had been waning since he returned from an Asian Cup tournament injured – after flying out with only Carlos Tevez above him in the Premier League scoring charts.
Injuries and age finally began to take their toll, but he continued to offer every ounce of energy in his body in the Everton cause, and for that earned every Evertonian’s undying admiration.
The stark facts detailed 278 Everton appearances, scoring 68 goals.
The affection in which he is held cannot be quantified.
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