Cahill: “It was like I was starting football all over again”

The magic of the Westfield FFA Cup shone through once again on Wednesday as Socceroos legend Tim Cahill made his Melbourne City debut in the Club’s 2-1 win over Brisbane Strikers.

Cahill made his competitive debut for City as a second-half substitute, in what was his first club appearance in Australia since leaving for Millwall 19 years ago.

Greeted by an electric atmosphere of the 3,571 strong crowd who braved the chilly conditions at Perry Park, Cahill admitted his first taste of Australian domestic football was a trip down memory lane.

“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I was sitting there beforehand and it was like I was starting football all over again.

“These are the sort of parks I grew up with at Sydney Olympic and Sydney United with atmospheres like this and the small ground and it actually takes you back and humbles you a lot.”

“I could have stayed out there much longer but the team coach probably would have left without me. I think this is the importance of coming home, spending time filling out stadiums with the players we have in our team, how big our club is and the respect that the Brisbane supporters have shown us, this is what football is all about.

“When you can grow communities and grassroots places like this and make them bigger and raise awareness, that’s what I’m here for. This excites me just as much as anything and at the same time, I’m winning.”

City’s number 17 replaced Anthony Caceres in midfield after 64 minutes and nearly made an immediate impact only nine minutes later as he was thwarted by the stern Strikers defence inside the penalty area.

Admitting his 30 minute cameo off the bench was “never going to be perfect”, Cahill was happy to get some valuable playing minutes in his legs during his first taste of Westfield FFA Cup football.

“Six weeks off after the mid-season break in China where I played 17 games and then last 6-7 days, it was hard physically after getting off an aeroplane was smashing the body with 2 sessions a day,” he said.

“I think it’s all part and parcel of coming back to this league and understanding the dynamics of what’s expected of me. Being involved tonight was good because I got a taste of football and also a taste of winning in an important round of the FFA Cup.

“We’re starting a journey now of something that can be special because it’s been 20 years since I’ve been back here and it feels great.”

City were pushed all the way by an impressive Brisbane Strikers outfit and with seven weeks to go until the Club’s A-League opener against Wellington Phoenix, Cahill said his side will benefit from the testing encounter ahead of the new season.

“We tried to play football today and it was a bit difficult but this is what these test bring in these sorts of competitions,” he said.

“They’re good tests because the league is not all about playing football. You have to mix it up when you go away and play some tough games and it will naturally come through games and more training.

Despite being in the early stages of his City career, Cahill said the feel good vibe around the playing group – which included the customary initiation karaoke session – has made his transition to Melbourne seamless.

“I feels like I’ve been here forever,” he said. “It’s a good group, they made me sing last night which was awesome and it was pretty good because I got to go after (Neil) Kilkenny and he was awful.

“I sung ‘Lean on me’ (by Bill Withers). It was the first song I sung when I was at Everton when Duncan Ferguson got me on the stage and this is the way it feels, we’re going to build a good culture at this club.

“We’re going to be critical of each other in house to make ourselves better because that’s what good teams do and that’s what we’ve promised ourselves this year, to stay true through thick and thin and tonight you’ve seen against a difficult opposition on a difficult pitch that we did that.”

Cahill and City will now prepare for the Quarter Finals of the Westfield FFA Cup, which is to be held between 20 and 28 September.

The Club will find out its next round opponent after the final Round of 16 match is completed on Tuesday 30 August.