Having come through the academy system in the early 2000s, Gary Cahill didn’t end up making too many first-team appearances for Aston Villa.
The centre-back played just 31 times in total for the club, quite surprising given that in his first loan spell away, he won Burnley’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards in the 2004/2005 campaign at just 18 years of age.
The potential was there for all to see – Villa fans surely remember his first ever goal for them when he struck a stunning overhead kick in a win over local rivals Birmingham back in 2005.
Despite that, he didn’t get much of a look-in at Villa Park, and it was no surprise that a few teams were lining up to sign him by 2008. And for just £5m, Bolton Wanderers snared him and his time with the Trotters earned him a high-profile move to Chelsea later in 2012.
Stamford Bridge saw him really develop into a fine Premier League central defender, where he would end up winning a bucket-load of trophies, including: two Premier Leagues, two FA Cups, one League Cup, two Europa Leagues, and the ultimate club achievement of a Champions League too.
Whilst Villa under Martin O’Neill in the mid to late 2000s were regularly challenging the big boys in the top eight of the table, he could surely have shown more faith and patience with Cahill.
It made it all the more galling that about a year later, the former Villa boss was adamant that he had made the right decision to sell him. He said: “Have I any regrets that Cahill left? No. He wasn’t exactly kicked out of the door, but Gary got to the stage where he wanted to play first-team soccer.
“He felt he wasn’t going to get that in the coming weeks or months on a regular basis at Villa and, if we couldn’t keep him, then we don’t really want to stop people from making progress. Bolton, Birmingham and Sheffield United were interested. Bolton paid us £5million for the lad plus the sell-on fee and we were happy to do it. He was happy to go, we are happy and we still remain happy with the situation.”
Given how Cahill’s career has turned out, the man with 61 caps for England and a trophy haul many can only dream of, will no doubt feel that he has proven O’Neill wrong big-time.
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