Interview: Gary Cahill talks England highlights, heroes... and aggressive table tennis

The England defender tells FourFourTwo about his international memories, trips to Kazakhstan and the strengths of the current side

Several players have pulled out of the current England squad, but not Gary Cahill. Now one of the senior members of a young group, the 31-year-old Chelsea defender is set to add to his 58 caps in the coming friendlies against Germany on November 10, and versus Brazil in the Bobby Moore Fund International on November 14.

Gascoigne was one who I watched as a young boy. He was a hero to all of us

- Gary Cahill

He’s experienced international highs – captaining his country, scoring four goals and helping England qualify for four consecutive major tournaments – plus some tough times too (a broken jaw kept him out of Euro 2012, while it’s safe to say the two tournaments since have not gone according to plan).

These are the big defender’s thoughts on being an England player and fan...

England hero growing up...

“Paul Gascoigne was one who I watched as a young boy. He was a hero to all of us really. Chris Waddle was one for me too, just because of where I grew up. Where I’m from, he was somebody who was representing England and playing in the Premier League, and as a young boy I always wanted to do both.

“That was a dream of mine and he was someone in my eyes who I saw was living that dream at the time. I would say among many others, Gazza and Waddle are the two that stand out for different reasons.”

Watching the World Cup...

“My best World Cup memory as a fan? The Michael Owen goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup in France.”

First England call-up...

“I can remember being involved in many call-ups before I was anywhere near the pitch! I remember being called up when I was at Bolton. I was playing well at the time and I got the call when Fabio Capello was the manager. It seemed like you had the initial squad, then the stand-in squad after that.

“So I wouldn’t be in the original squad, but then I’d come in and travel to Kazakhstan away. Clearly I wasn’t going to feature as I wasn't in the initial squad, so I did four, five or six trips before I managed to get my chance, coming on for Michael Dawson. So I did my spade work and I was more than happy to do that.

“I was still buzzing to be involved. The likes of Beckham were there, as well as Ferdinand, John Terry, Lampard - real household names – so it was a big learning curve for me, just biding my time before I got my first cap... which was amazing.”

Best moment for England...

“My favourite moment was my debut. It’s a huge moment in anybody’s football career... and then I got my goal as well [against Bulgaria, three games later]. But probably collectively it was being involved in the 2014 World Cup; although it didn't go to plan by any stretch, just to take experience from a major tournament was great. Also, wearing the armband for England when I’ve been lucky enough to do that is very special.”

Gary Cahill celebrates his first England goal in his fourth cap

Captaining England...

“Any moment that you have the opportunity to wear the armband for your country is amazing. You kind of go in steps. You make your debut and then you want to progress, so to be given that opportunity was fantastic. Not just for me, but also for my family and everyone else – because it’s a huge occasion.

“I feel very lucky – if you look at the people who have had that armband in the past, there are some big names there. Nobody can take that away from you once you have had that.”

England’s current side...

“If you look at one of our strengths in this team, it’s definitely our pace going forwards. In wide areas and in central areas, we’re blessed with a lot of pace which I think can help us against lesser teams and also stronger teams.

“If you can play effective counter-attacking football, as you see in the Premier League, it’s very effective. We’re blessed with that and everybody has been contributing goals [England had 12 different scorers in World Cup qualifying], which has been good. The strikers have been in fantastic form.”

Unwinding with the squad...

“We used to have some really aggressive table tennis competitions. Not so much now for some reason. A lot of the lads like golf. I’m trying to think who’s good... Harry Kane is quite good; Milner and Jags [Jagielka] are good as well. Quite a lot would play if they have a free afternoon, but I think to play at a high standard, there isn’t that many. Harry is probably out there on his own at the moment.”

Putting Harry Kane in his place in training

Gary Cahill is supporting the Bobby Moore Fund International, which sees England play Brazil on Tuesday 14 November.

The Bobby Moore Fund is The FA’s official charity partner. For more information on how you can support Cancer Research UK’s life-saving bowel cancer research, visit www.bobbymoorefund.org

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