Gary Cahill is in line to make his 50th Chelsea appearance tonight, and has been reflecting on a year in Blue as he prepares for the challenge of Reading.
A January window signing in 2012, it was a couple of weeks after arriving at Chelsea that Cahill made his debut, the draw against Manchester United where we let a three-goal lead slip, and when he suffered injury against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, it looked as though his first half-season in west London could be over, only to make a return in time to help us lift the trophy in Munich in May.
‘When I came in I was trying to get myself involved in the first team and as many games as I could, but to reach 50 in a year is great,’ the 27-year-old said. ‘With the amount of games we play here it’s phenomenal, so it has come around really quickly and I’ve enjoyed it.
‘There were times at first where I was in and out, rotated, and then injured, so it took a while to get going but now I am playing more than I’m not. There is always competition though, and it’s high, so you’re on your toes and you do the best you can.
‘The highlight is clearly the Champions League final. That could be the highlight of my career, but there have been a lot of good times. We’ve missed out on a couple of trophies this season which has been disappointing, but there are ups and downs and hopefully there will be more ups than downs. In the future I want to be a big part of the squad and help this club go forward and win more trophies.’
This is the first chance Cahill has had to reflect having been a regular in our busiest season in memory, which he admits is taking its toll.
‘I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t because it is,’ he said. ‘It’s so intense, and without moaning or making excuses to be asked to do the maximum in every competition you need to be fresh going into games. We’ve played 40-odd games already at the season’s halfway point, so it’s crazy and it does take it out of the lads.
‘You need to be as close to 100 per cent fresh as you can and it’s impossible to do that because you’ve got two days of rest after a game and then you’re playing again, while trying to get coaching and ideas in. It’s tough but there’s nothing you can do about it and we have to get on with it.’
The former Bolton man believes we must look back to our last Barclays Premier League performance as we ready ourselves for a Reading side that has won its last four games in all competitions.
‘We had a great result in our last league game against Arsenal, which does seem a long time ago now,’ he said. ‘We had the Swansea disappointment and then Brentford, where you probably saw a bit of fatigue. No disrespect, the pitch and conditions were bad, but we were off the pace and I think it was purely fatigue.
‘There were a few words said in the dressing room at half-time from the manager and then between the players themselves. Everyone knew we needed to do something about it in the second half.’
Referring to the way the team fought back twice from being behind in that game and are playing for the manager, Cahill said: ‘There is a lot of pressure from the fans but we need to just try to do the job and we grafted out the draw in the end.
‘We’ve had some rest and hope to go again. It’s important to get a good start at Reading, like we did against Arsenal where we were fantastic. It will be tough and I think they’ll ask some questions of us, but we need to respond and get the right result.’