DRONFIELD-born Gary Cahill believes he has answered questions about his ability to play on football’s biggest stages as he strives to regain his England spot.
The Chelsea defender, who enjoyed a three-month loan spell at Sheffield United five years ago, missed out on the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine with a broken jaw suffered in the final warm-up international against Belgium at Wembley.
Cahill acknowledges he faces a four-man fight with John Terry, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott for a place in Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Moldova.
But at least Cahill believes he is now a genuine contender rather than merely making up the squad numbers and has overcome the doubters with his performances for Chelsea after his move from Bolton.
He said: “There were times when I travelled with England - 10 or 11 times - when I didn’t even get on the pitch.
“I was in the stand a lot of the time and only getting called in when people could not make it or were out.
“That makes you appreciate it more when you get a chance. I feel now I can fight for a place which is pleasing.”
Cahill admitted: “The Champions League experience with Chelsea pushed me on and made me learn. I think it gave me a chance to play in the big games that people could say I had not played in.
“That was the main thing. People would say I was okay but hadn’t played in the big games. It gave me an opportunity to do that.
“Many of the players who don’t come from the big clubs have always got that, ‘can he do it in the big games?’
“Certainly coming from Bolton, I was not playing in the Champions League and that was always going to be a question mark over my head.
“It was nice to answer that, in a way, at the back end of last year. That experience brought me on but also made me more hungry because I just want to be part of more games like that. It drives you on even more.”
Cahill watched England’s Euro 2012 campaign on holiday in Spain and admits it was a painful experience - not because of their performances but through the nature of his injury setback.
He said: “It was just a freak thing. Running into Joe Hart is not the best person to chose. I probably should have run into Ashley Young or somebody like that!
“I went away, but it is awkward when you struggle to clean your teeth and are just eating a soft food diet. It was painful at times, as well so it wasn’t ideal.
“Luckily they did not have to do a big operation. It was just a minor thing.”
Cahill knows he has a battle to regain his England spot after the form of Lescott during the Euros but rejects the claim he had mixed emotions about his direct replacement performing so well.
He said: “I think it would be cruel to say that. You would never wish for one of your professionals to come in and do badly.”