The Blues' defender put in a crucial performance in the club's 1-0 Champions League semifinal first leg win over Barcelona, and is delighted to see years of hard work paying off.
Speaking at a promotion for EA Sports UEFA Euro 2012, Cahill explained: “I have never had a silver spoon in my mouth. I have had to work hard for everything that I have achieved.
“I feel I have earned what I have got – and I am still learning. You are bound to do that when you train every day at a club like Chelsea and the internationals you work with. I have also learned that you should never take anything for granted, never. That is why I will never stop trying to improve.”
The former Bolton and Aston Villa defender admitted that he had suffered setbacks in his career but is now excited to be performing at the highest level.
“I have had to suffer a few knock backs. I had two loan spells playing in the Championship, with Burnley and Sheffield United. That helped me, made me tougher I think.
“All through my career, I have been learning my trade wherever I have been. The hardest thing in football is to prove to people that you can make the next grade up.”
Cahill highlighted the change in mindset since arriving at Stamford Bridge, battling at the other end of the table.
“Expectation – that is the biggest difference I have noticed,” he said. “At Bolton, we wanted to stay up. We went into some games hoping to win and into others needing to get a result. Here, all that has been flipped on its head.
“At Chelsea, you have to win every game. For me, it is a totally different ball game from the start of the season.”
Sheffield-born Cahill, who made his England debut against Bulgaria in 2010, revealed how he turned down the chance to play for Ireland - for which he was eligible because of an Irish grandparent.
“Steve [Staunton] asked me if I wanted to play for Ireland when he got the job [as manager of the Republic's national team]. But I said no. I had played for England teams at youth and Under-21s and it didn’t feel right. I wanted to play for England.”
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