Cahill the man to step into Terry's boots
Who can lead the Three Lions' defence into World Cup 2014?
With John Terry retiring from international, Andy Mitten argues that Gary Cahill is the man to do it.
‘JT: Captain, Leader, Legend’. So says the banner at Stamford Bridge, where he is loved. And he is loved. I watched him at close hand as he mingled with fans and journalists before Manchester United’s game there in February.
Away from Chelsea, Terry’s viewed very differently. His mistakes on and off the pitch leave him loathed, not lionised.
There’s been no clamour calling for him to reconsider yesterday’s decision to retire from international football after 78 caps, 34 of those games as captain.
Who will replace him at the heart of England’s defence is a difficult one. A year ago, Manchester United’s young central defenders Chris Smalling, 22, and Phil Jones, 20, looked like they might play together for club and country for years.
"From having a surfeit of top class international centre halves, England are now not so blessed"
They still might, but both have been hit by persistent injuries and need to play more United games if they’re to be considered for their country again. Their time will come, but they won’t be regulars yet while Sir Alex Ferguson is settled on two from Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic or Jonny Evans.
So who will step up? From having a surfeit of top class international centre halves, England are now not so blessed.
Ferdinand has been England’s only other world class central defender in the last decade, but he’s 34 in November and out of the international picture.
Joleon Lescott has become peripheral for Manchester City, with insiders unconvinced he has a long term future at the club.
That leaves the highly dependable Mancunian Phil Jagielka, who is 30 and has just 14 caps to his name. He’s not in Terry’s class as a player, but he was surprisingly chosen ahead of a more likely replacement, Chelsea’s Gary Cahill, for the disappointing recent draw against Ukraine.
"He’s quick, strong and powerful in the air. A solid tackler who weighs in with the odd goal with two in four games this season"
However, my pick would be Cahill. The 26-year-old has been a late arrival on the international scene with just 10 caps. He is young enough to have seven or eight years ahead of him and good enough to play well against the best – Barcelona - in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
He continues to develop, with teammate Frank Lampard saying, “Gary has grown completely as a player. I have nothing but massive things to say for Gary.”
It’s unclear what a ‘massive’ thing is, but Lampard added: “To come to Chelsea after the season we had last year, fit in and play the games he did against Barcelona and then the final, he has proven he is a top, top centre half in world football. Internationally he can go on and play for a long time.”
Cahill may not have looked it against Atletico Madrid’s sublime Falcao last month and he’s not even a guaranteed starter for Chelsea with Terry and David Luiz for competition, but he’s quick, strong and powerful in the air. A solid tackler who weighs in with the odd goal with two in four games this season.
He’s not Terry, though that may be a blessing as well as a curse.
Andy Mitten is a football writer living Barcelona and Manchester, you can follow him on Twitter @AndyMitten
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