Gary Cahill never gave up hope of making the World Cup, despite the gut punch of being left out of England’s final squad before Gareth Southgate made his selection for Russia.
The Three Lions boss may have a nice guy persona, yet he has not shied away from making bold decisions, whether it be easing out all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney or going for promise over experience.
Cahill looked set to be on the wrong end of one of those calls after a lack of game time at Chelsea saw him left out of the squad for March’s friendlies against Holland and Italy.
Chris Smalling and Michael Keane were other big-name absentees, but unlike those two the Chelsea captain worked his way back and earned a place in Southgate’s 23 bound for Russia.
“No, I didn’t (think my chances were gone),” Cahill said of March’s setback.
“I felt it had took a knock missing out on that squad, especially the last squad just before you meet up. It was kind of a big squad to miss out on.
“So I realise that maybe it took a little knock and I really had to dig deep to try and perform from there to the end of the season to get myself back in the frame.
“That’s the way it has worked. Of course last time I was disappointed.
“There was a lot going on at that moment of time and I missed the squad, but I never didn’t have the belief that I could make the squad.”
Cahill managed that by focusing on regaining his place in the Chelsea starting line-up, eventually going on to captain them to FA Cup glory.
It was in the build-up to the final that the Blues skipper anxiously waited for news about the World Cup squad – only to miss Southgate’s call when it eventually came.
“I thought potentially it could be bad news,” Cahill said.
“Because in my experience of being involved with England for seven or eight years you usually don’t get the call, you just receive the information that you’re going to meet up and what times etc.
“So to get the call a different way, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous when I was listening to it (the voicemail), but I was delighted to be involved in another tournament for my country.”
Cahill is one of just five survivors from the squad that went to the World Cup in Brazil four years ago.
And at 58 caps, he is also comfortably the most experienced member of a travelling party that has not tasted a single win at a World Cup between them.
“In the time I have been with England, in the qualification and the friendlies have been fine, and then the tournament comes which has proved to be difficult for whatever reason,” Cahill said.
“I’m just going there personally in such a positive frame of mind and no nerves, just excitement to go over there.
“I’m desperate for it to be a success and to try and make the nation proud and to come back having a good experience in a tournament, which is something I’ve missed in my career.
“And, with that stat, quite a few of the other lads have as well.
“That’s a goal for us, something that’s missing and something we need to work very hard to try to achieve in these coming weeks.”