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Timmy Cahill’s Return To Australian Football Was As Good As It Gets

If you like global footballing superstars turning out in gritty FFA cup clashes on patchy park football pitches.
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As the clock ticked past 60 minutes the word came down from the coaching staff and Timmy Cahill started limbering up. In three minutes time he would make his return to Australian football for the first time since joining English first division team Millwall as a teenager back in 1997.

His debut for A-League Club Melbourne City came in the most fitting circumstances: on a patchy Perry Park pitch against second-tier team the Brisbane Strikers in an obscure FFA Cup match. No one would have flinched if the former English Premier League star and hero of three successful World Cup campaigns for Australia had asked to skip the gritty clash for a more high-profile debut at a packed house in Melbourne, but that's not Timmy.


"These are the parks I grew up in. It takes you back. It's humbling," he told AAP.

The ground would break it's all time record for attendance with 3,571 fans packing into the hill and grandstand for the landmark occasion. Timmy's involvements in his 27 minute stint were subtle and he'd admit after the game there wasn't much to take away from it. But 14 minutes after his arrival City were broke the 1-1 deadlock when Nick Fitzgerald was brought down in the box and Bruno Fornaroli converted the penalty kick.

"I think it's part and parcel of coming back to this league and understanding the dynamics of what's expected of me," said Cahill, who prepared for the clash by singing karaoke with his team mates (he went with the Bill Withers classic he sung after joining Everton for the first time).

"This is the importance of coming home. Spending time, filling out stadiums, this is what football's all about: growing communities and grassroots, making it bigger and raising awareness. This excites me as much as winning," he said.

The importance of Timmy to Australian football cannot be underestimated. The 36 year old was personally head-hunted by the head of the Australian Football Federation, David Gallop after turning down a lucrative contract extension with former club Huangzhou Greentown in China. His two year deal with Melbourne City, estimated at around $7 million, is the second biggest in A-League history, behind Italian great, Del-Piero.

"We're going to build a good culture. We'll be critical of ourselves in-house to make ourselves better and also take care of each other because that's what good teams do," he said.

"We know the standards we have to get to and this is a stepping stone to that.

"The quality of footballers we have in this football club is very high. We've got a philosophy of football and style we want to play. Combinations will slowly work when its relaxed."