Australian international Tim Cahill's efforts for club and country have received recognition from the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) who named the 25-year-old as its Player of the Year for 2004 on Thursday.
Cahill enjoyed a memorable year in which he won his first international cap, played in the FA Cup final and Athens Olympics, and earned a transfer from Millwall to Everton in the English Premiership, where he impressed immediately with his drive and goalscoring threat from midfield.
The Australian beat team-mates Mark Schwarzer and Marco Bresciano in the voting for the award, with the Solomon Islands' Commins Menapi finishing fourth. The Everton player had to wait until March last year to make his debut for Australia in a 1-0 friendly victory against South Africa, having represented Western Samoa, his mother's country, at Under-20 level as a 14-year-old. He has since made up for lost time, scoring seven goals in five appearances.
OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas said: "Tim has had a wonderful season and is a deserved winner of the OFC player of the year award. He is unique in that he has played for two Oceania nations, Western Samoa and Australia at various levels. It was a fabulous year for Tim scoring the winner in an FA Cup semi-final which has catapulted his career to the next level. He has certainly served as a fantastic role model not just for youngsters in Australia but also in Samoa."
Cahill, who was born in Sydney, left Australia at 16 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer in England, the birthplace of his father. He was taken on by Millwall and made his debut for the London club in May 1998, going on to make more than 200 league appearances there. In the 2003/04 season he underlined his knack of getting goals from midfield by scoring eleven times, including the winning goal in the FA Cup semi-final against Sunderland, which earned Millwall a final date against Manchester United - a match they lost 3-0.
Cahill subsequently stepped up a division to the Premiership with a transfer to Everton, who paid around £2m for his services. He began the Premiership season late due to his involvement in Australia's run to the Olympic Games quarter-finals, but for Evertonians he has proved well worth the wait. After making his debut at Old Trafford in a goalless draw with Manchester United, he then scored the winning goal on his second appearance at Manchester City - a header that followed one of his trademark breaks into the penalty box.
Cahill is the ninth Australian winner of the OFC award. Frank Farina, the current Australia coach, was the first man to collect the honour in 1988 and Australians honoured since then include Robbie Slater, Mark Bosnich, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, all of whom were rewarded for their success in English football.
Cahill, who can expect to be involved when Australia compete in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Germany in June, will join up with Farina's squad next week for the friendly matches against Iraq in Sydney and Indonesia in Perth.