By DAVE MARTINEZ
Tim Cahill said all the right things during his introductory press conference with the New York Red Bulls, and as he gets set for his anticipated club debut against Tottenham Tuesday night at Red Bull Arena, he is all ears when it comes to working with former Premier League adversary Thierry Henry, his new teammate and captain.
"I’ve achieved a hell of a lot in my career," Cahill said, "But I also feel that this is a big move for me. I know a lot of people might think otherwise, but I’m 32 years old. I respect MLS, I’m coming here at a good age, I’m fit and I’m ready for a new challenge."
Henry has already been greatly involved in the education of this new challenge. The French striker was delighted last week as news broke of the Everton legend joining the club and was quick to offer a bit of advice to his soon-to-be teammate.
"When I first arrived here, I was stupid enough to play right away and it didn’t work. Like (Alessandro) Nesta did, I guess you need a couple of weeks to get yourself ready to get yourself ready to get into this league, especially with the hitters we have around," Henry said. "This is my experience, when I did that it was my mistake. End of the day, if (Cahill) will play, he’ll play I guess. Having said that, I know how stupid I was playing straight away. If you ask me to do the same thing, I’d do the same thing. You just want to play right? You want to show why you came, and I guess he wants to show everyone that he’s committed. I am going to tell him but I am sure he’s going to want to go out there straight away."
True to form, Cahill is ready to jump into the fray. As reported by SBI last week, coach Hans Backe confirmed the Red Bulls newest Designated Player would debut alongside a returning Teemu Tainio in a friendly tilt against Tottenham – much like Henry did two years ago.
"I’m from Australia, so we don’t do things in half measures, we just do what we’re told," Cahill declared. "For me, this has been crazy since I’ve been here. I’ve been on four, five or six flights here and there, fitting training sessions in, sleeping in the afternoon. This is our job, this is something we love doing. I know playing (against Tottenham) might be a bit quick, but I’m here now, I’m feeling fit, I’m feeling good. It might be a bit stupid, or whatever, but that’s what we do."
Acknowledging his teammates' warning, Cahill added, "Henry’s a professional. His passion in training, his passion the other night in (Montreal), it’s what you need. It’s something that the other players respect a lot because it helps them be better, and if you don’t have that drive and if you don’t have that willingness to tell your teammate to do better or to give constructive criticism, you’re not going to get better.
"I spent a lot of time with Henry since I’ve been here and he’s been fantastic. He knows what I’m like. I’m looking forward to it, so I’m just going to grab the bull by the horns and run with it."
In that time, Henry, along with several of his new teammates, have been giving Cahill a crash course on the finer points of MLS soccer – from the league format to the fans themselves.
"The thing is, we’ve been talking about this with the players at dinner the other night," Cahill said, "and they’ve been teaching me everything and telling me. It’s different; it’s something that I’ve got to get used to."
One of the first things that stood out to the Australian midfielder was the poor away records that haunt teams across the league. He compared and contrasted the MLS phenomenon to that of his time at Everton, when playing on the road sometimes was a less stressful venture.
“Speaking to Henry, whether that’s a mentality thing or whether it’s a thing that naturally happens, because in any other league in the world, those statistics are always quite even," Cahill said. "In Everton we seemed to travel and sometimes play better sometimes with no pressure.
“There are so many different elements that I’m learning about; the way the teams are, and different things about MLS. I suppose it’s all about being leaders on the pitch and being one off the pitch. I signed as a Designated Player, but I don’t classify myself any differently than the rest of the players. I want them to trust me and to be at ease that on and off the park that I’m a team player.
"I think the one thing about me is I just try and do well on the football pitch and off it. Fans are obviously something that means a lot to me, and I’ve got to win them over. But you can only do that by playing football. I know that I’ve got the right drive and passion for the supporters and it’s up to me to show them that.
"Henry says it can be tough at times, but it’s been tough throughout my career, throughout certain seasons and things like that. I think over the duration of a season and when people get to know me, they’ll know what type of character I am and what type of person I am. I’m definitely going to enjoy it and hopefully the fans are too."