Cahill aims to erase Wembley pain
Gary Cahill is desperate to banish the memories of his Wembley nightmare with Bolton Wanderers by helping Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur to reach the FA Cup final on Sunday. Last season Cahill was part of a Bolton team that headed to Wembley looking to reach their first FA Cup final in 53 years.
The centre-back's dreams were torn to shreds within half an hour, though, as Stoke City put three early goals past the Trotters on their way to a 5-0 hammering. Cahill had an off day himself that afternoon, with his weak header allowing Robert Huth to score Stoke's second, and his failed interception enabling Kenwyne Jones to slot home and effectively kill off the tie after 30 minutes.
Cahill admits the humiliating defeat still hurts, but he hopes to wipe the slate clean in this weekend's semi-final with his new team. "That game is not a fond memory, it's something that hurt at the time and still hurts me now," the Chelsea defender told FA TV. "But now I have a chance to put that right on Sunday.
"I have no idea why that result happened. People said: 'Did you freeze?' No, we didn't. Everything seemed to be going really well for us as a team in the league, and it was as if everyone had a bad day all at once," the England international said. "It was just a freak result. It was a freak game."
After an uncertain start under Andre Villas-Boas - having to wait three weeks after joining the club before making his debut - Cahill has performed well recently, competing with David Luiz for a place alongside John Terry at the back. The 26-year-old found the step up a challenge at first, but is now revelling in the knowledge he is part of a club that is challenging for honours, both domestically and in Europe.
After facing Spurs on Sunday, Chelsea have the monumental task of trying to overcome Barcelona in their UEFA Champions League semi-final clash three days later at Stamford Bridge. "It is a defining moment in the season," Cahill said. "The lads are confident but obviously we realise how big the games on Sunday and Wednesday are.
"When you sign for a big club you are aware that they will challenge for trophies year in, year out and this year they are challenging for trophies again so being a part of a team that wins a trophy would be fantastic. It would be amazing for me to win my first trophy but there are hurdles before you can even think of that and we have a massive one on Sunday."
With one win in their last eight Premier League games, Tottenham travel to Wembley in their worst form of the season, but Cahill thinks the north London outfit will provide a stern test. "They are a hard team to beat," Cahill said. "Harry Redknapp is a fantastic manager and he has turned them into a real force this season so it will be a tough game.
"They have a lot of players that can hurt you, like Gareth Bale. The wingers are always fast and their midfielders are superb as well so they have a lot of players who can hurt you on the break."
Despite the warning about Spurs' talents, Cahill admits Chelsea have their tails up after a mini-revival under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo, and is delighted with the impact the Italian has made at the club since his appointment in March. "I think the lads have taken to him," Cahill said. "He is a calming person but he puts points across and he says what he feels.
"He has been in and around the set up at Chelsea for a while now so he knows how everything works. The lads sort of knew how he worked before. He is a good guy and a good manager so it is going really well."