DRONFIELD-born Gary Cahill got his hands on the first trophy of his professional career and admitted: “If you told me at the start of the season I would win the Champions League, I would’ve thought you were joking.”
For Cahill started the campaign not at new European champions Chelsea, but at a Bolton side that were ultimately doomed to Premier League relegation.
There cannot be many players who have enjoyed such a dramatic transformation in their career prospects over the course of a single season.
England defender and Sheffield Wednesday fan Cahill, who joined Chelsea for £7m in January, said after Saturday’s Champions League penalty shoot out win over Bayern Munich: “I signed for five and a half years and wanted to win trophies. But to win two in six months is what dreams are made of.”
The other trophy was the FA Cup a fortnight earlier, which Chelsea secured while Cahill, who also had a loan spell at Bramall Lane, was recovering from a hamstring injury that threatened to shatter his Champions League dream. The 26-year-old, who limped off in the semi-final triumph against Barcelona, was joined on the sidelines by centre-back partner David Luiz, with both only returning to training recently. “When I picked up the injury against Barcelona, I feared I wouldn’t make the game but I’m thankful to the staff that got David and me back,” Cahill said. “Absolutely amazing night and highlight of my career so far.”
Cahill came to the fore as Bayern dominated before Didier Drogba twice broke their hearts. “It seemed like wave after wave,” Cahill said.
“But when we’ve needed to dig deep in this competition, we’ve done it. We were dead and buried - apparently - against Napoli. We were dead and buried against Barcelona with 10 men. We just keep bouncing back.
“Bayern probably feel hard done by. They played some great football, put us under a lot of pressure. But, again, the big man’s come up in big games, in big occasions and he’s dug us out of a hole again.”
Drogba secured a 1-1 draw in normal time with two minutes remaining after Bayern wasted a glut of chances to avoid what was ultimately a 4-3 penalty shoot-out defeat.
Cahill said: “When they did miss the odd chance here and there, that’s when you thought, ‘It’s going to be our night’.”