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Teenage Kicks: Gary Cahill

Gary Cahill is the latest member of the squad to look back on his younger days when he was learning the game...


At what age did you start at a professional club?

I started at Aston Villa when I was 13.

What position did you play?

Central midfield. I started there but shot up in terms of my height within the space of a year so moved to centre-back when I was about 15 or 16, just when I was looking to get my first YTS contract. I found it easier playing at the back so from then it was my position.

How good were the facilities?

They were really good actually. They’ve improved even more since then because they have a new training ground but it was nice in a way because it was so tight there was more interaction with the first team. We were eating in the same place and obviously back then we had jobs to do. I cleaned Mark Kinsella's boots and when I first started there were people like Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu and Ian Taylor there. 

Any team-mates that went on to make it professionally?

Jamie Ward, who plays for Derby. Luke Moore, who was at West Brom and Villa, he’s abroad now. When we played reserve football a bit later we had Liam Ridgewell, who’s now also abroad, and Steven Davis [pictured below], who played against us for Southampton recently. Then in the year below we had people such as Craig Gardner and Gabby Agbonlahor. Within a three-year group there were quite a few that went on to do well in the game.

Any opponents that went on to make it?

I remember playing against James Milner at a very early age and he stood out, it was in a youth team game at Bodymoor, before we were full-time, he was playing for Leeds at the time.

Important coaches?

Gordan Cowans, he was technically gifted and wanted to put his stamp on the team, getting us to play football and keep the ball. We also had Tony McAndrew and Kevin MacDonald, they were really strict but both excellent coaches. Looking back now they certainly had an impact on my career and that’s probably why they’ve had so much success with players coming through. I had a good time with them even though at times they could be harsh.

Where did you live?

In digs in Birmingham. I lived with a lady called Jill Jones in Sutton Coldfield .

How did you get to training?

By bus. When I first started on the YTS contract we got a free bus pass, so we used to get on the bus from our digs to a meeting point in Sutton, and then somebody from the club picked everybody up.

Favourite music at that time?

I used to listen to Usher quite regularly.

Any dodgy clothes or haircuts?

Yes, I had a Burberry hat, the one with all the checks. I also had a really harsh skinhead, I did it myself, a DIY haircut.

Do you remember the moment you got your first pro contract?

Yes, it was an amazing feeling. It was weird because we did a two-year YTS and then in the third year they came to us early and said they wanted to give us a pro deal. It makes you feel a bit more important because they want to give you a contract. That was probably the first time I felt like I was going in the right direction.

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