The news that Tim Cahill is to join MLS side New York Red Bulls for a £1 mln fee brings the curtain down on eight years at Goodison during which the Australian played a seminal role in the reconstruction of the team in accordance with the David Moyes blue-print. His three goals in 41 appearances last season and failure to find the net throughout 2011, were an indication that his powers were beginning to wane and the newly arrived Steven Naismith has clearly been earmarked as his natural replacement. The opportunity of a lucrative move to a top MLS side and virtually guaranteed first team football was clearly attractive to the 32 year-old and Cahill has decided the time is right to move on.
The bland statistics of the record book will show that Tim Cahill scored 68 times in 278 appearances for Everton. He is credited with 38 assists and on 29 occasions he scored the only goal of the game, a record only surpassed by Dixie Dean. They will also show that he arrived from Millwall at a cost of just £1.5 mln pounds in the summer of 2004 and scored 12 times in 38 appearances in his first season. What the statistics will not show is how after the disastrous 2003/04 campaign, in which Everton flirted with relegation and finished on just 39 points, Tim Cahill was the signing who did most to get the Moyes era back on track, helping to drive the Blues to a fourth place finish and Champions League qualification in that first term; it was Cahill who espoused the Moyes mantra of hard-work and team-spirit, qualities which have come to epitomize Everton.
Always fully committed, never hiding, never shirking, Cahill could not be described as skilful on the ball or quick, nor is he a particularly good passer. His shooting, from distance, outside the box, has to be described as poor or, in truth, non-existent. However inside the penalty area he is a box of tricks and especially from set-pieces is an instinctive and deadly finisher. His heading ability, for a man who stands just 5ft 10, is as prodigious as his ability to lose his marker, wheeling this way and that, before emerging from the melee to head home, prior to pummelling an unsuspecting corner flag. In his pomp he was also possessed of that happy knack of scoring in the dying minutes of a game – the sucker-punch that grabbed a draw or ‘stole’ all the points. Certainly no angel, but never a cheat, nor a diver, he knows how to look after himself and is an expert judge of what is acceptable and where the red lines are – an Aussie sportsman to his core. Ninety minutes in the company of a usually smiling Tim Cahill will have left plenty of defenders up and down the Premier League nursing bruised bodies and battered egos.
Certain players become their club. Thierry Henry and Tony Adams will always be the embodiment of successive great Arsenal teams, speaking to us of their particular qualities; Glenn Hoddle will always be associated with Spurs; Kevin Davies is, and will always be, Bolton Wanderers. During his glorious years at Goodison Alan Ball became ‘Mr’ Everton and we don’t think it any exaggeration to say that Tim Cahill, like his flame-haired predecessor, has in the public perception become inseparable from his club; Everton as Tim Cahill – Tim Cahill as Everton. No greater comparison and no greater accolade could there be.