BY SAM SMITH
Crystal Palace defender Gary Cahill has become a better player as he has got older, believes Roy Hodgson.
The 33-year-old has been one of the Eagles’ most impressive performers since signing from Chelsea in the summer. Cahill has been captain in the absence of Luka Milivojevic during a period of good form when Palace have all but confirmed Premier League safety.
“How does he do it? Well it’s all to do with the man. The man, Gary Cahill. His level of football knowledge and football skill hasn’t diminished. In fact, I’m sure you can say that, with experience, he’s one who has actually improved as the years have gone by.
“Luckily, he hasn’t lost anything physically, he hasn’t lost any mobility or any aggression, any technique. All of that has stayed with him. So, to answer the question of why he is doing so well, it’s all about his character, his desire to be a good professional football player and to do what he knows is his job to do and to do it well.
“Every week and we are so grateful that we got him. At the time it was a contentious decision, don’t forget that the bulk of last season had been played by James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho at the back. They had been great but then they got injured. In came Scott Dann and Martin Kelly and they both did a very good job.
“We knew that injuries were always going to be a risk factor with Mamadou, with James and with Scott in particular. Even Martin, they do pick up injuries. So, for me, it was too big a gift to see us pass us by when Gary become free. Due to a relationship that Ray [Lewington, Hodgson’s assistant] and I have with him from England, we were able to persuade him to come and join us.”
Milivojevic had missed victories over Newcastle United and Brighton through illness. He returned to play the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s win against Watford.
Hodgson said the captaincy will be handed back to the Serbian when he returns to full fitness.
“He [Cahill] has been captain of the team and he’s been fantastic. Now, we have Luka [Milivojevic] back and he [Cahill] may have to relinquish that captaincy because Luka is our club captain. I gave Gary the captaincy in Luka’s absence and he has been quite fantastic.”
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