In late 2005, the Socceroos were readying themselves for a week in The Netherlands followed by a friendly international game against Jamaica in London on 9 October. During this time Tim Cahill was ‘stuck between a rock – call him David Moyes – and a very hard place. Call it the wrath of Guus Hiddink.’ It got a little ugly. Here is what happened between Hiddink and Cahill before the 2006 World Cup qualifier as revealed in Adam Peacock’s That Night: A Decade On, The Story Of Australian Football’s Greatest Night.
The start of the 2005/06 English Premier League season was a succession of horror shows for [Cahill’s employers] Everton Football Club. Six losses in seven games and just one goal scored – statistics of sorrow for Merseyside’s proud blue half.
As the October international break rolled around, eight Everton players were selected to represent their countries that week. Moyes let seven of them go.
Cahill wasn’t allowed to join the Socceroos in Holland.
The rules, more damn FIFA rules, said Moyes didn’t have to. Australia would play Jamaica on Sunday 9 October. The match was a friendly international, and FIFA stipulated that players only had to be released 48 hours before a friendly. By then, four days of camp in Mierlo had wrapped up, and the team would be on its way to London.
‘I have spoken to Guus Hiddink and I think we have made our feelings known,’ Moyes told Everton’s website.
Well, he was half right. He actually spoke with Graham Arnold. But, yes, he made his feelings known. As Arnold drove through Mierlo, he put in a call to Moyes, and put it on speakerphone so Hiddink, riding in the passenger seat, could listen in. Not that Moyes knew the Socceroos boss could hear what he was about to scream.
‘How many times have I gotta tell you, YOU’RE KILLING HIS CAREER!’ Moyes raged down the phone at Arnold in his ominous Glaswegian tone. ‘He went to the 2004 Olympics, the 2005 Confederations Cup…’ he continued, pointing out Cahill needed a rest because he wasn’t getting any in the so-called off-season. It was one of the all-time-great sprays.
As the conversation went on, further down the dead end of heated disagreement, Hiddink signalled to Arnold to hang up. Cut him off. You could only imagine the reaction when that happened.
Soon, there’d be another call from Merseyside. It was Cahill, who told Arnold he’d be happy to come over. Hiddink, who used Arnold as the logistical conduit in all dealings with clubs and players, had a simple response. ‘Tell Tim we’ll meet him in London.’
Cahill wasn’t exactly greeted with open arms when they met up two days before the game, as Arnold recalls. ‘Timmy turned up and Hiddink is like, “Ahh, welcome, Timmy! Welcome to camp! Did you have a nice game of golf in Spain with David?”’
‘Timmy’s like, what the hell?! That wasn’t my fault, I wanted to come!’
There was no golf, of course. He was at home in England, and the withering sarcasm hit hard. It was about all Hiddink said to Cahill before the game. He would be on the bench against Jamaica.
Between that rock and a hard place was an uncomfortable place to be.
Sunshine blaring through the cool pale blue of a brilliant mid-autumn day, few cities are better to be in than old London town. A Sunday afternoon, the city draped in history is alive with tourists and residents alike soaking up what precious time they can outdoors before the onset of another brutal winter.
For the thousands of Australians who had infiltrated the English capital for work and play, not necessarily in that order, there was only one place to be this particular day. Craven Cottage, the quaint little stadium on the north bank of the Thames, inner-west London, was playing host to the Socceroos in their last tune-up before the South American showdown in November.
Jamaica had fallen from their perch, the 1998 World Cup participants having failed to qualify since, yet with an unpredictable nature and searing pace up front, the Reggae Boyz still posed some threat.
Certainties were easier to find on the Australian side of the equation.
At the Hammersmith End, bathed in glorious sunlight, the sea of gold was in a buoyant mood after a lunchtime in pubs scattered through this well-to-do part of town.
And inevitably, Guus Hiddink was in a ruthless mood. Zeljko Kalac started in goal, Mark Schwarzer wisely resting the injured shoulder that caused him to miss three club games before camp.
The ever-dependable running machines of [Brett] Emerton and [Scott] Chipperfield flanked three centre backs — Tony Vidmar, Lucas Neill and Michael Thwaite. Craig Moore and Tony Popovic were still injured.
Jason Culina was partnered by the unheralded Luke Wilkshire in midfield. Harry Kewell still wasn’t quite right after his groin injury from three months earlier, so Archie Thompson and Mark Bresciano supported Mark Viduka up front.
It was 2–0 within half an hour. Bresciano delightfully curled a left-foot shot into the top corner, then Thompson gratefully received a beautifully weighted pass from Culina.
Happiness. Bliss. Just don’t look to the sideline. Thunder raged.
‘[Hiddink] was going off his brain in that match,’ remembers Culina.
‘Guus was relentless in the way that he was smashing us during the game,’ recalls John Aloisi, who came off the bench to score late. ‘If you made a mistake he’d be yelling like the whole stadium could virtually hear, and he was so on top of us we knew we had to do the right thing or we were going to cop it.’
In the second half, three more would go in at the Australian end, to the delight of the crowd by now drunk on golden rays and amber fluid. Viduka, Aloisi and Joel Griffiths, who hopped away in celebration, got on the scoresheet.
After the match, Jamaican players had nothing but exasperated praise for the Socceroos: ‘You guys mooove too much, mun’. It was a smash-up.
However, like a cruel, miserly boss of a bank who refuses to pass on an interest rate cut, Hiddink withheld any gratitude.
‘It felt like the worst 5–0 win of all time. He never said, “Well done, boys”,’ recalls Aloisi.
In front of the cameras, he seemed positive.
‘The overall attitude of the group was good the whole week and today,’ he told the TV audience back in Australia, with almost a hint of a grin. ‘It’s a good victory, the team got confident, there were some very good things defensively, but you have to look a little bit through reality, that it was not the strongest Jamaican team.’
Behind closed doors, individual praise was still harder to find than drought in Holland. He ordered the players who didn’t play, or had little time off the bench, back onto the field after the crowds had left for a sharp small-sided game, as he watched by himself from the now-empty main grandstand.
After which, he saved his coldest advice for Tim Cahill.
Thanks to his late arrival Cahill had played the last 15 minutes of the match in an unfamiliar role on the left flank. All week in Mierlo, Hiddink had been instructing his players in this position to play outside to inside, to outside again — start on the flank, drift to the middle, before going wide again, to get defenders moving and thinking.
Cahill was forced to sit an exam without studying, a predicament made worse by the fact that the left flank was right in front of the coach’s area.
For a quarter of an hour, a llllong quarter of an hour, Hiddink yelled instructions mercilessly at Cahill, who tried manfully to comprehend his impossible task. Even if he’d scored a hat-trick, though, criticism would have still rained upon him.
After the match, and the warm-down, Hiddink had just one thing to say to Cahill. ‘Next time, you’ll turn up, won’t you,’ staring sternly at his subject.
That Night by Adam Peacock (Random House Australia, RRP $34.99) is available at all good book stores (also online at Booktopia where you can read another extract). Copies are selling fast in the lead-up to Christmas, so get your copy now – it’s sure to become a well-thumbed Christmas gift or lazy holiday escape.
ABOUT ADAM PEACOCK
Adam was born and raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and fell in love with sport, in particular football, at an early age.
Realising he didn’t quite have what it takes to play football for a living, he quickly worked out that talking and writing about the game was a better career choice.
Following eight years as a reporter on the Seven Network, he moved to Fox Sports in 2006 where he now hosts the football coverage (also tennis grand slams and contributes to Fox Sports News). A true sports fan, Adam has covered six Olympic Games during his career … and he still plays football (although, not as well as he’d like!).
Have you gotten hold of a copy of That Night yet? We’d love a review in the comments section below.
(Extract from Chapter 7 Jamaican Guus Angry (pages 138-143) of That Night with permission. Feature image source: News Limited)