Cahill: There is a lot of competition
English defender Gary Cahill has insisted he will never be overwhelmed by the pressure of playing for his country after a life-threatening experience 18 months ago.
Cahill ended a crazy week, which had seen him linked with transfers to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, by scoring England's opening goal in Friday's 3-0 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying win in Bulgaria.
The 25-year-old's composed display in Sofia has given England coach Fabio Capello food for thought as he looks for the right man to partner captain John Terry. Rio Ferdinand had been the Italian's preferred choice alongside Terry, but Cahill is now firmly in the reckoning as well.
While some players might lose their cool with such a big prize up for grabs, Cahill, who is expected to start Tuesday's qualifier against Wales at Wembley, has things in perspective.
The former Aston Villa centre-back is aware his health is more important after a blood clot was discovered in his upper chest in February 2010. He recovered from the illness, but admits it changed the way he looked at his life and his job.
"With myself being ill and missing a long period of time and games, it gave me time to reflect," Cahill said. "I missed the football, but I also put things into reality and your health is your most important thing.
"Once I came back from something as serious as that, it just made me appreciate really what I had. That's why now I just tend to try to go out there and just play with a smile on my face and enjoy what I'm doing. That's the most important thing. Your health is more important than anything."
Cahill was pleased when the transfer window closed, staying at Bolton after Wanderers rejected bids from Arsenal and Spurs and was thus able to concentrate on his first competitive start for his country in Sofia.
"From a personal point of view, it was a fantastic end to a mad week for myself with the win, the clean sheet and the goal," he said. "The week was strange. There was a lot of speculation about me moving. It didn't happen, but it was a great end to a difficult week.
"Did the transfer stuff unsettle me? Maybe mentally a little bit, but around the time we were training and I just had the game to prepare for and it helped me by the window shutting.
"I was fine. I could get my head right and, come the game, I was looking forward to getting involved. Overall it affected me a little bit, but I'm a laid-back sort of guy. I don't tend to let much bother me. It is dealt with now and put to bed."
Cahill would welcome the chance to play European football, but hopes his performances for Bolton will ensure he remains part of Capello's plans. "As a professional footballer in general, you want to strive and be the best you can and try to get to the highest level you can," Cahill said.
"Playing European football would be fantastic, but at the minute, I'm not doing that. All I can do is put my performances in for Bolton and hope the manager is impressed and, when I get the chance for England, try to grab it with both hands. There are a lot of quality players in my position and a lot of competition."