Socceroos legend Tim Cahill has made a sensational return to former club Millwall after 14 years away from The Den. Cahill banged in 57 goals during a six-year spell with the London club before joining Everton in 2004 and going on to become one of the best-attacking midfielders in the Premier League. Since leaving Goodison Park he has plied his trade in the US, China and Australia, but is now going full circle by signing with the Lions until the end of the season. That could spell good news for the Socceroos as the 38-year-old is still their best player and the rigours of Championship football can sharpen him up ahead of the upcoming World Cup in Russia.
Cahill’s continuing importance to the Socceroos was highlighted in October 2017 when he rescued the team in a crucial World Cup playoff game. Australia found themselves 1-0 down against unfancied Syria in the second leg of the Asian playoff and were heading for an embarrassing exit. But cometh the hour, cometh the man, as Cahill headed in the equaliser and then nodded home the winner deep into extra-time. They then thumped Honduras to make it to a fourth consecutive World Cup, and their reward is a tough group, so they will need star quality. Australia should not be so reliant on a man who is well past the age at which most footballers hang up their boots, but Cahill is no ordinary player.
He has now been capped 104 times, which leaves him just five games short of Mark Schwarzer’s record, and in that time he has netted 50 goals. That is a remarkable strike rate for a midfielder and leaves him well clear as Australia’s all-time leading scorer. There is every reason to suggest he can continue to be the Socceroos’ talisman at the World Cup in Russia later this year as he is still in excellent physical condition. Not many 38-year-olds could still play a full 90 minutes at the highest level, let alone continue into extra-time and grab the winning goal to send his nation into rapturous excitement.
All the way back in 2006, two years after signing for Everton, Cahill led the Socceroos into the World Cup and scored twice in the first game to put Japan to the sword. He was the first Australian to ever score in a World Cup and the first to be named a man of the match. He scored at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, including a sumptuous volley past Dutch goalkeeper Jaspen Cillessen in 2014 that is widely considered one of the greatest goals ever scored at a World Cup. A Socceroos World Cup campaign without Cahill would not feel right at all.
Australia’s midfield is probably its strongest department, with Aaron Mooy and Mile Jedinak both having proved themselves in the Premier League, but there is always room for a fit and healthy Cahill. Millwall manager Neil Harris believes it will take a couple of weeks for the 38-year-old to return to full match-fitness, but when he does he will be a force to be reckoned with in the Championship. He has always had a phenomenal eye for goal and hit double figures for Melbourne City last season. The level of quality will be higher in England, but you would never bet against Cahill finding the back of the net, so Millwall fans are understandably exhilarated.
The current Socceroos set-up is not exactly bursting with goals, so Cahill’s presence would be extremely welcome as he has a knack of arriving in the box at precisely the right moment to beat the keeper. Australia are obviously huge outsiders in the World Cup winner odds and highly unlikely to trouble the favourites such as Germany, France and Brazil. But fans will expect to be given something to cheer and no Socceroo is better in that department than Cahill.
Harris is thrilled to have him on board. “The players will thrive off the enthusiasm that he brings,” he said. Cahill’s arrival is expected to galvanise the Millwall squad and he can have a similar effect on Australia at the World Cup this summer. He can still make a mark in English football due to his intelligence, stamina and mental strength, and he can carry that confidence into Russia, which will only benefit the Socceroos.