Cahill talks England

Alex Dunn caught up with Chelsea defender Gary Cahill to discuss his international aspirations. The amiable centre-half conceded his disappointment at missing out on the recent WC qualifiers, but nonetheless feels the future is bright for the national side under Roy Hodgson...

Gary Cahill: Determined to win back his place in the national side

Just Play is a grass roots football scheme designed to get more people playing football

The only thing more certain in life than death and taxes is that footballers make bad spectators. Gary Cahill is no exception.

Overlooked for England's World Cup qualifying double-header against Moldova and Ukraine, the centre-half was in a contemplative mood when we caught up with him on the morning after the night before at a Mars Just Play session at Wembley.

While conceding his disappointment at not being involved, the amiable Chelsea man was decidedly more positive when quizzed on England's long term prospects, Mr Neville, life under Roy and the direction in which the new man in the dugout is taking his side.

It proved to be a tough game against Ukraine, do you see it as a point gained or two dropped?

I think it was a decent point in the end. It was disappointing not to get all three but they're definitely the strongest team in our group and they caused us a few problems. They were the better side for the first half but when we pushed on after the break if there had been an extra few minutes I think we'd have got the result. It was difficult, but we didn't expect anything less. I think from what I've seen from Tuesday and, at the Euros, they're disciplined, strong and have very good players. They are the main threat but we have to be confident of getting the job done and we are.

On a personal level does the fact you missed out on the European Championship through injury provide an extra motivation to get to Brazil?

It does. I was massively disappointed to miss out with the injury. It was a huge tournament and I'd put myself in a strong position with the form I'd found at the back end of the season. I was really happy with how things were progressing and I'd got myself in the England team. When injury struck I didn't really realise how big a blow it was.

It must be frustrating to have missed out in the first competitive internationals of the season having previously looked close to establishing yourself?

I probably didn't realise the damage to my chances with England the injury has caused until the last couple of games. I've been really disappointed not to feature. That's football but before the Belgium game (when he suffered a double jaw fracture that ruled him out of Euro 2012) I was in a strong position and playing regularly. I've got to get my head down and fight for where I want to be. The manager has plenty of options right across the park but at centre-half there's a number of candidates that can play that position. That's always been the case ever since I've been involved with England. In the set-up maybe there are other positions were you think we're a little bit stretched but centre-half certainly isn't one of them.

The general reaction to the Ukraine performance has been quite critical but from a players' perspective are qualification campaigns seen more as a necessary evil that just need to be negotiated?

Cahill puts his Just Play team-mates through their paces

In an ideal situation you want to top the group by playing some outstanding football. But if everyone is honest with themselves the main aim is to qualify. Regardless of the criticism the result of the second game isn't going to determine whether you qualify. There are plenty of matches to go and the primary aim is to get to Brazil. If we can get playing great football en route though, of course that would stand us in good stead.

Do you think the game out in Ukraine could suit England more in that they will be expected to a little more expansive and less inclined to play on the counter?

To be honest, I think it will be quite similar out there but the lads will have a better idea of what Ukraine are about having played them twice now. On another night it could have been dead and buried. Certainly had Jermain (Defoe) not been penalised before his goal it could have been a different game. But that's football.

Are the media again in danger of going overboard in their criticism of the national side given four points from two games is hardly a disastrous start?

It's really early into the new season. There are better things to come and we've two big games next month to put what the manager wants into practise. They made it really hard and were well organised. I don't think you can, or should, read too much into it. It's a work in progress. The manager still has plenty of time to work on what he wants from the team and stamp his mark on things. I thought the first game in Moldova was fantastic. We moved the ball really well and played some good stuff. The other night we weren't as sharp and didn't move the ball as quick as we'd have liked but I think that was due to the opposition and how they were set-up.

You've ten caps to you name - do you consider yourself to be established now or are you still one of the new boys?

Middle! I'd like to think I'm more established now having won the ten caps, which I'm very proud of. I'm pleased with what I've done in those games. There's a few clean sheets in there and a couple of goals which is nice. My international career has gone really well but in football you're always having to prove yourself. Definitely a couple of months ago I'd have said I felt quite established but you get a set-back and it's not back to square one, but you've certainly got to get back working hard to force your way into the first XI. It's a constant battle to establish yourself but having played the games I've played now I'm certainly more comfortable.

A number of players have spoken of the England camp being a lot more relaxed under Roy Hodgson, is that something you'd agree with?

I do yeah. In terms of day to day training and around the complex it's more relaxed definitely. That's one of his main attributes, he has the ability to make the group relaxed going into games. He's easy to speak to and approachable so that's obviously a plus to his managerial style too. If you have an issue there's no question you'd feel confident about going to him and talking it through.

It must be nice as a defender to work with a coach who places so much emphasis on getting it right at the back...

Exactly. As a defender the aim is always to keep clean sheets but he also wants his side to build from the back. Not just in terms of keeping out the opposition but playing from deep. He stresses the importance of starting from the back and getting the ball out to the full-backs. The goalkeeper now is encouraged to roll the ball out. I think that's the way forward, especially at such a high level. That's how most international sides play and it's how personally I think we should play. It's how he likes his sides to be set up and obviously as a defender, in this system, it's important to be able to play - as well as keep clean-sheets.The old-age problem for England has been an inability to keep possession. Is this something the manager is actively trying to address?

It will improve. Over the next few months, the more we work with him, it will get better. He's really keen for us to keep the ball. When you've got Jermain Defoe up front you don't want to go long too often. It's important to play from the back and I think that's what he'll stress in subsequent games. Personally, I think it's great.

As a centre-half who's comfortable in possession it must be a fillip to know the manager wants to play from the back?

I'd like to think so and I hope that's an attribute to my game. There are still many things I need to learn but that's something I can bring to the team. I think most international teams try to play that way. Often international teams play with just one up front and that creates space to move into. I'm comfortable doing that.

The inclusion of Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has caused much debate. How do you feel they performed across the two games?

Because of their age they're still learning, as we all are, but they've done really well. I think it's important that when they do well it's not blown out of proportion and on the flip side, too much isn't made if they have a dip in form. They're still young lads who are constantly learning and developing. They're playing fantastically well for their clubs - ahead of their time - and have earned the opportunity to play for England. It's a case now of being patient with them. They'll learn from the games they play in. It's fantastic for England that we've got really bright players coming through and they're only going to better over the next few years.

That said, the older heads came to the fore against Ukraine. Do we have a tendency to write off some of these players too readily?

If someone like Frank Lampard has a couple of off games they tend to right him off. It's dangerous to do that with such good players. If you look at how important he was in the last two games, scoring three goals, it just goes to show he's far from finished. He's an influential figure and you need the likes of him, Steve and JT to be around the group to pass on their experience. You need them not just for their ability but for their knowledge that rubs off on the rest of the squad. You've got to get the right mix between youth and experience and that's something I believe the manager has got spot on with the group at present.

How difficult is it to gage when a young player is ready to make the step-up?

Bringing them in at the right time is key but I've been there as a young lad myself and sometimes it's best just to get playing. You learn from playing games and you learn from being around the camp. The next step is doing it on the pitch and ultimately that's where you learn. You sometimes make mistakes but you learn from it and move on. You have to be patient but it's looking good that there's some fantastic talent coming through.

"It will improve. Over the next few months, the more we work with the manager, it will get better. He's really keen for us to keep the ball. "

Cahill on keeping possession

Quotes of the week

What are the major differences the less experienced guys will find between club and international football?

The tempo of the games is the main thing. In a weird way, international football is sometimes easier. The tempo is a lot slower than the Premier League, which is so fast it's unbelievable. Obviously English football is renowned for being the quickest. International football is a lot slower but the technical abilities most international sides possess means you can't switch off. The hardest part is keeping your concentration. I think the Champions League and international football are a lot more similar in this respect. The build-up is slower but if you make one mistake invariably you're punished. The quality is that high that you've always got to be on your toes and keep focused.

Do you think your partnership with John Terry at club level could give you an advantage in terms of England?

I'd hope so. I've been pleased with how we've played together whether for club or country. So far it's gone really well. The important thing though is that I just get my head down and find my best form and become a fixture in the side leading up to the World Cup. That's the aim.

I can't not ask you about Gary Neville. Are you and the rest of the lads worried he might slate you on Monday Night Football if you have a 'mare?

I hope not because then I'll have to see him again in about a month. I'll pull him up on it if he does! I think he's come in and instantly you see his passion. If you look at how he is on the bench it's clear how much it means to him. I think he's been fantastic. When you watch him on TV you can see that he speaks a lot of sense doing his punditry and he employs a similar style on the training field. In the meetings he gets across his point really well. You can see how he understands the game and has been there and done it. I've nothing but positive things to say about him to be honest.

Mars and The FA are offering a week of free Just Play sessions at the beginning of October. Just Play is a grass roots football scheme designed to get more people playing football. Search online for Just Play.