The Australian netted his seventh league goal of the season on Monday night in the 2-2 draw with Sunderland, the sixth minute strike taking Cahill joint-third in the scorers’ chart, alongside Chelsea’s Florent Malouda and Kevin Nolan of Newcastle United. That goal also extended Cahill’s lead over his Everton teammates even further – only the scorer of Everton’s second goal against the Black Cats, Mikel Arteta, has found the back of the next more than once in league action this season. Goals from midfield ordinarily represent little more than a useful contribution to the efforts of the strikers – except in rare examples like Frank Lampard at Chelsea – but as Everton’s trio of strikers endure a barren spell the Blues are reliant on goals from elsewhere, and none more so than the feet – and head – of Cahill.
Cahill has been one of Everton’s most reliable players in his six years at Goodison Park, never scoring fewer than five Premier League goals in a season – and that low water mark came during an injury-hit 2006/07 season, when Cahill managed only 18 games. The following year was a similar story – more injuries, and again only 18 games – but seven goals arrived then, putting into perspective how impressive an achievement it is for Cahill to have reached that tally already this season. The midfielder’s most prolific season for Everton was his first, way back in 2004/05, with 11 goals, and it would be both a surprise and a disappointment if that total was not at least matched this year, given the emphatic start made.
But perhaps Cahill’s greatest contribution to the Everton cause is more difficult to quantify, and cannot be measured in goals scored or games played. One of Moyes’ first signings as Everton manager, Cahill has come to represent the club around the world, including giving is match shirt to an Everton fan in the crowd after an Australia World Cup game and spearheading the Blues’ popularity in his native Australia to the point the club toured the island in pre-season with Cahill as the attraction. Domestically, Cahill is the Everton player most feared by the opposition and most adored by the fans, except the minority who feel he does not offer enough to the side apart from goals and would prefer to see him dropped.
Most Evertonians would argue a Cahill-less Everton does not bear thinking about, but it may soon become a reality as the Asian Cup approaches in January and an Australia training camp planned for December potentially robbing Moyes of his key man for over a month. Yakubu, Beckford and Saha need to be ready, for Cahill will not be around to spare their blushes forever.