David Gallop has been forced to respond to a strange conspiracy theory as to why Tim Cahill got the nod for the Socceroos in favour of in-form striker Jamie Maclaren.
Cahill, 38, defied his age and lack of club game time for Millwall to make the second cut in Bert van Marwijk’s 26-man squad named on Tuesday.
Despite enjoying a superb goal-scoring spree for Scottish club Hibernian, Maclaren was an unlucky omission.
Cahill’s selection came a week after van Marwijk labelled the stalwart “a special case” and subtly intimated the country’s all-time leading scorer would be named in his final group come June 3.
The other hint came on Tuesday morning with the announcement that a number of Caltex stores will be renamed ‘Cahilltex’ in line with the World Cup.
The timing of the marketing campaign’s announcement had a number of fans theorising that Cahill had been selected more for commercial reasons than football ones.
You: Tim Cahill has hardly played a game for months, is taking the spot of a red hot Jamie Maclaren and is only getting picked so the FFA can exploit his commercial value.
— Dean Bilton (@Dean_Bilton) May 15, 2018
I have no problem with the gimmick per se. The issue is if the team selection process has been influenced by marketing strategies rather the best possible outcomes for the team.
— Guido Tresoldi (@GuidoTresoldi) May 14, 2018
The disgrace that is Australian football on full display. This Cahilltex deal was finalised over 6 weeks ago. According to a source, Cahill had to be in squad for promotion to eventuate. https://t.co/oibD5seaxm
— ECP (@ECP641) May 14, 2018
David Gallop is talking about Tim Cahill but really I just want to hear more about the 2 for $3 special on Twix at participating Caltex locations
— Chris Paine (@chrisreespaine) May 14, 2018
Really!! The guy shouldn't even be in the squad let alone be the face of Australias World Cup squad he's past it
— jason barnes (@jason_au29) May 14, 2018
— The Ladies League (@LadiesALeague) May 14, 2018
Does anyone in Sydney have a spare McLaren car handy that they can drive to the Cahilltex in North Ryde tomorrow at the allocated time?
— Les Street (Лес Стрит) (@official_lesdog) May 14, 2018
Gallop strongly denied the theory at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I say have a look at Tim Cahill’s track record.”
“He’s a guy who has produced for the Socceroos and Australia so many times.
“He’s going to Turkey, he’s got a few weeks of intense training and he’ll be right up there [for final selection].”
Cahill insists there was nothing untoward behind his selection, and he’ll be “driving even harder” to book his spot at a fourth World Cup in Russia.
He said he held no faith in anything other than his own ability, which he was confident could still make an impact at the highest level.
“I’ve probably spoken once to van Marwijk and that was in the last camp about my fitness in Norway,” Cahill told Macquarie Radio.
“Obviously I’m in great nick because I pride myself on professionalism and being in the top 20 per cent fitness-wise.
“There is no real individual connections for players because they have to come in such a short space of time and produce at a World Cup for Australia … they don’t have time to be sentimental with players and do them favours.
“And I totally agree with that … at 38 years old I’m very proud of where I am as part of the 26 but I’m going to be driving even harder now to be part of the 23.
“I don’t feel any player has a given right – regardless of what you’ve done in your past – to think they’ve got that seat on the plane to Russia.
“I’ll be leaving no stone unturned because football is my life.”
Cahill is currently in the US and will join the rest of the squad in Turkey next week for an intense training camp including two warm-up friendlies against the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Van Marwijk’s mandate is based strictly on results, with the Dutchman’s main aim to get the Socceroos out of a World Cup group containing France, Denmark and Peru.
The 2010 World Cup finalist has spoken of his penchant for “fast football” but also of his desire to win using another approach if required.
Cahill felt that was the biggest difference between van Marwijk and his predecessor Ange Postecoglou.
“The biggest thing you’ll see with Bert van Marwijk is he plays to situation … not every game is the same,” he said.
“With Ange it was an amazing cycle – we won the Asian Cup, qualified for a World Cup … and Bert has been there before.
“The different styles, I feel will be that we adapt to any situation and not be afraid to go at teams or also be able to keep a result and be compact.”