HIS SPORTING LIFE: Tim merits a World Cup send-off
ONE of the great joys of playing Championship Manager in charge of a lower-league team was when you were able to convince an ageing Premier League or international star to wind down their career with you for a season or two.
Recently, I've been getting to grips with the 00/01 edition again – still the definitive version of the long-running franchise – and was pleasantly surprised to find Danny Tiatto agreeing to come on board to aid my efforts in turning UWIC Inter Cardiff into a force in the League of Wales.
Okay, so it might on a par with tempting a genuine superstar to see out their playing days takes taking on the likes of Total Network Solutions and Connah's Quay Nomads, but back then Tiatto was kind of a big deal. At least, he was 17 years ago. In the blue half of Manchester. For a bit.
In real life, Tiatto has retired to his homeland and is now on the coaching staff of Brisbane Roar, although there is one of his compatriots I have always hoped I might see one day pulling on a Northampton Town shirt for a final fling on these shores.
Sadly, Tim Cahill seems to have settled back into life in Australia, where early-risers or insomniacs with a subscription to BT Sport can watch him still tearing it up week in, week out in the A-League for Melbourne City.
With advances in sport science, injury prevention and footballers generally being more conscious of their food and drink intake than their predecessors these days, there is no reason a player of Cahill's ability should not still be able to perform at a high level at the age of 37.
But perhaps what is even more impressive is the ex-Millwall and Everton midfielder is still one of the go-to players for the Australia national team as well, as his two goals in this week's World Cup qualifying play-off against Syria proved.
With the Socceroos trailing after an early goal in the second leg in Sydney and 2-1 down on aggregate, skipper Cahill got them back on level terms just before half time and then sealed their progress with an extra-time winner.
That second was his 50th goal for the country of his birth – having represented ancestral homeland Samoa in his youth – and was trademark Cahill, leaping above his marker and looping a header past the goalkeeper.
It was also enough to keep Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou in a job for a bit longer, although Australia must now overcome Honduras in the two-leg inter-confederation play-off to seal their place in Russia next summer.
Certainly, Cahill expects them to be among the 32 teams battling it out to lift the trophy, going as far to say he would not still be playing for Australia if he thought otherwise.
“I wouldn’t be around if I didn’t think we could qualify for the World Cup,” Cahill was quoted as saying in Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper back in September.
“And on top of that, I wouldn’t be around if I didn’t believe in the vision of what Ange says we can do at a World Cup.”
There are few fairy-tale endings in professional sport, but I for one hope we get a final chance to enjoy Cahill's efforts on the world stage.
SINCE taking over as owners of Formula One, Liberty Media have been doing all they can to live up to their promise of getting fans closer to the action than ever before.
Part of this has seen them making available footage of the pre-race briefings between the drivers and race director Charlie Whiting, giving more of an insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
These briefings exist to go over any issues and concerns the officials or racers have ahead of each Grand Prix, although recent videos have suggested these can often descend into petty squabbling.
Given how the setting of the briefings looks much like a classroom, with Whiting sat at the front behind a desk and the drivers sat in front of him in carefully-laid out rows of chairs, it is perhaps no surprise it can often seem like a teacher having to deal with rowdy schoolchildren.
Romain Grosjean in particular has been the chief agitator in the briefings ahead of both the Malaysian and Japanese Grand Prix, almost like the crawler who cannot wait to tell on his classmates for doing something wrong.
In Malaysia, for example, he was quick to try to get Sergio Perez punished for cutting corners on the opening lap at the previous race in Singapore, shooting his hand up with a “Sir, sir! Look at me!” insistence in the manner of a smarmy teacher’s pet everyone else hates.
This led to the briefing being concluded with Force India driver Perez trying to explain himself to Whiting, who drily stated “Well, I think you got away with it” once the Mexican had finished.
Grosjean was at it again ahead of last weekend’s race too, this time complaining about Lewis Hamilton’s habit of loosening his harness to wave to the crowd at the end of races.
Once again, no further action was taken, although Whiting seemed exasperated at having to give a clarification drivers should not undo their harnesses completely while still driving on the track.
Still, do not be surprised if the next video from a briefing shows Grosjean handing Whiting a shiny new apple before it starts.
You have to feel sorry for Whiting, who in all of these clips seems genuinely worn down by years of having to deal with whiny man-children bickering about petty, nonsensical issues.
It also teaches us that maybe some things which go on away from the track are best left there.