Today, Caltex trumpeted a World Cup marketing push honouring Tim Cahill. With the preliminary squad also announced today, some believe the team should be picked on form, not market value.
We are just 30 days away from the 2018 World Cup. However, our winding path to Russia has revealed many issues. For good or ill, we ran Ange Postecoglou out of town, appointed band-aid Bert before choosing to tempt fate and repeat history by having Graham Arnold waiting for us when the tournament closes. Doesn’t matter, we made it.
However, it seems that the ends mask the fractured means.
What we are, is a team in rapid transition. Which is a nice way to say that we’re not very good, and very soon we’ll be not much better. The clouds have been long inching towards us. Our performance in the 2014 World Cup (3 losses, -9 GD) was collectively put down to us being placed in a tough group (Netherlands, Chile, Spain), but it was also an indicator of where we sat. That was four years ago, and the man who scored our only goals in open play, Tim Cahill, is now four years older.
Don’t get me wrong, we owe much to Tim Cahill. Both is forehead and his heart – but we need to face facts. There are younger legs who have done more to edge Cahill’s berth, and it’s fair to say that Cahill’s own legs haven’t really cemented his place. Earlier today the preliminary squad was released, with the most notable absence being the in-form Jamie Maclaren, who has bagged eight goals in thirteen games since arriving in the same league Tom Rogic plays in. Conversely, Cahill, since his homecoming to Melbourne (save for one volley) was without note, or pomp. He then moved to Millwall, his first club, which included a lengthy ban and a rumoured exit. Leaning on the stats, Cahill played 64 total minutes for Millwall’s first team.
I understand you can’t replace Cahill’s experience (or forehead) but anyone who sat through the herculean jaunt that was the World Cup qualifiers knew, and perhaps ignored an obvious truth: Cahill was fading fast. He played 776 minutes over fifteen matches, which equates to an average of 51.7 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, playing that much at age 38 is a feat worthy of Lazarus, but we’ve long expected too much, and he’s thrived on that. But, the bitterest truth is that father time is undefeated.
Maclaren’s snub arrived at a particularly interesting time, as today, the name sponsors of the Socceroos, Caltex, announced that they would be deifying our greatest Socceroo, renaming a series of service stations after him.
Proud to be partnering with @caltexaustralia in a fun way to get behind Australian football. There are ‘Cahilltex’ stores in 5 major cities around the country and it’s awesome to have so much support for the Socceroos heading towards Russia. #Cahilltex #GoSocceroos 💚💛 pic.twitter.com/k4aXx811UR
— TIM CAHILL (@Tim_Cahill) May 15, 2018
It’s fair to assume that this marketing plan wasn’t birthed this morning, and you’d also have to expect that there was a serious amount of planning, marketing synergy, ad meetings and whatever else that went into their nation-wide splash. All of that takes time and money. Hinging all that on the assumption that Cahill would be picked is a bit of a risk. I’m not saying that marketing influenced the selection, but a lot hinged on him being picked for it not to.
However, it’s not just Caltex who needed him selected.
The 2018 World Cup is also an important one, save for the individual hopes, and the scorelines. There are many people who need a quality World Cup. The A-League just endured a season of horrifically dwindling attendances and general audience complaint, and could absolutely use the anabolic shot of a decent cup run and the possibility of yet more Cahill heroics. This even goes for the casual fans, those who only tune in once every four years. They will tune into to see Australian hero Tim Cahill, not Jamie Maclaren.
In the presser today, Caltex Australia’s Richard Pearson said: “Transforming into CAHILLTEX for a couple of months shows our ongoing support for the Caltex Socceroos. These sites are just one of the ways we will celebrate our new partnership with Australia’s greatest ever footballer, Tim Cahill. Along with many Australians who are big fans of the Caltex Socceroos, we will follow Tim and the team’s efforts closely, in my case wearing a Fansie!”
You: Tim Cahill has hardly played a game for months, is taking the spot of a red hot Jamie Maclaren and is only getting picked so the FFA can exploit his commercial value.
— Dean Bilton (@Dean_Bilton) May 15, 2018
FFA head David Gallop responded to the claim that Cahill was picked with marketing in mind, addressing the detractors thusly: “I say ‘have a look at Timmy’s track record’…I don’t think anyone can mock the fact that he is in the 26.”
I’m not accusing the A-League, the FFA and Caltex of collusion, but the following sentence does read two ways.
Of course Tim Cahill would be going to the World Cup.
Make of that what you will.