February 24, 2009: If David Moyes had his way, one of his own Everton players would be in line for the Player of the Year award in England this season.
The young Scottish manager would have no hesitation in picking a player familiar to Japanese fans and even more familiar to Japanese defenders: Tim Cahill.
The destroyer of Japan in Kaiserslautern when coming off the bench in the 2006 World Cup, Cahill demonstrated his skills as a centre forward for Australia in the recent 0-0 draw at Yokohama.
And it's due to his versatility and his commitment to the cause, as well as his all-round talent, that makes him such a favourite with Moyes in particular and Evertonians in general.
In recent weeks he has been playing as an emergency striker due to an injury crisis at Goodison Park, and Pim Verbeek sent him out as the lone forward against Japan, supported by Holman and Bresciano in his 4-3-2-1 formation.
I'm sure Japan were relieved about this, not only because Pim left Josh Kennedy and Scott McDonald on the bench but because Cahill was cut off on his own up front, and unable to make those late runs into the box that cause so many problems, especially at set pieces.
The fact that Yuji Nakazawa did such a good job in man-marking Cahill speaks volumes for Nakazawa's current form, and with Tulio alongside there was little room for Cahill to turn and attack. Apart from that fierce snap shot just before the break, Cahill spent most of the game with his back to goal, shielding the ball and trying to bring in his teammates, who were positioned too deep to really penetrate the Japanese defence.
Two days before the game, at Mitsuzawa Stadium on the Monday evening, I managed to get a question in to Cahill as he made his way to the team bus after training. I asked him where he'd be playing on Wednesday night, up front or in midfield behind the striker.
"I'd play in defence if they asked me," Cahill replied, and he probably meant it, too, such is his enthusiasm for the game.
Earlier, Pim had told me about a visit he made to see Moyes at Everton regarding the release of Cahill for Australia games, and the Everton manager made it clear he preferred Cahill not to be involved and to focus only on his club football.
"After that there were a few stories in the newspapers that Cahill might not be playing for Australia, but he sent me a text message informing me that none of the stories were true, and saying that he couldn't wait to join up with the team.
That shows you how committed he is to the national team," Pim said in the build-up to the Japan game.
The chances of Cahill winning either of the two major individual awards in England -- one from his fellow professionals and the other from the media -- are not that high, but the high praise from Moyes is perfectly justified.
I fear Japan have not seen the last of Tim Cahill just yet.