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Gary Cahill

On the secret of a perfect header and upsetting Ade Akinbiyi

Gary Cahill

It might not have lived up to Mayan expectations, but at least 2012 was a good year for somebody. Winning the Champions League and FA Cup in his first season for Chelsea, Gary Cahill also quietly became a regular fixture for England. And with a World Cup qualifier against San Marino on Friday, ShortList found out how the 27-year-old centre-back is preparing.

How is training at St George’s Park?

It’s phenomenal. Both the indoor and outdoor pitches are amazing. Though it was odd the first time we trained there. It was a royal open day, and some of us were sat in an ice bath when Prince William, Kate, Prince Harry and a camera crew walked in. I just sat there for ages, freezing.

What might the average England fan not know about the team’s training?

The preparation we do in analysing future opponents. We’re shown lots of clips of different games. The coaches pick the clips that back up the point they want to get across, so it’s a bit like watching Match Of The Day.

In the recent win against Brazil, you faced three Chelsea club-mates. How was that?

It was strange. For set-pieces, David [Luiz] and I would mark each other, and neither of us wanted the other to score so there’d be banter during our run-ins. We got to laugh about it afterwards.

Do you have much banter with the opposition?

When I first came through the ranks, I gave a lot to strikers. One of those was Ade Akinbiyi and I soon wished I hadn’t – he was massive and gave me a tough afternoon. I don’t get verbal any more, but I still let strikers know I’m around with my physicality. If there’s a tackle to be made, I make it.

Who’s the most full-blooded player you’ve trained with?

John Terry. That’s the way he plays and trains. He always wants to win. Jack Wilshire’s fiery, too – he isn’t one to shy out of 50-50s in practice matches.

You’re also proficient at scoring from headers. Any tips?

Instead of concerning yourself with running away from your marker, get in a position where you can see the flight of the ball. And once it’s coming into the box, run towards it and attack it – always run towards the ball to ensure there’s power on your header.

Are the England coaches strict with what you eat?

They were under Fabio [Capello]. They even banned butter. I don’t think anyone needs to be strict on us – it’s not as if we’re sneaking out and getting a KFC every night.

What would be your cheat food?

Exactly that, KFC. I’m talking Zinger Tower Burger Meal. If anything, I have trouble keeping weight on, which actually means I have to eat a lot to maintain my weight.

Do you ever give pre-match locker room talks?

Now and again, a lot of senior boys do it. If you feel that something needs to be said, then it gets said.

Is there an Any Given Sunday-style speech you can remember?

I don’t want to go into detail about what game it was, but there was one for Chelsea not that long ago. It happened after the match and the speech was given by Petr Cech. It was inspirational.

Gary’s killer tip

After a training session I’ll do two minutes in a hot bath, two minutes in a cold bath, and then two minutes in a hot bath. It’s perfect for soothing my muscles.

Cahill is an ambassador for Paul Costelloe’s spring/summer 2013 menswear collection, now available at John Lewis