Roy Hodgson has described Gary Cahill as a “gift” after the Crystal Palace defender continued his remarkable form by helping the Eagles to a third-straight 1-0 Premier League win.
The 34-year-old starred against Watford at Selhurst Park on Saturday alongside fellow centre-back Scott Dann to blunt the Hornets.
Between them, the duo produced 14 clearances with Cahill also involved in a number of blocks and interceptions as Palace registered a ninth clean sheet in the Premier League this season.
When Hodgson moved to bring the former England international to SE25 last summer, some eyebrows were raised with the club well stocked in that area having James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho, Dann and Martin Kelly.
But the addition of Cahill on a free transfer has proved a masterstroke, with the former Chelsea ace quickly becoming a fans’ favourite and showing he has plenty left to give after a frustrating 2018-19 season spent largely on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge.
“For me it was too big a gift to let pass us by in a way when Gary became free and – due to the relationship (Palace assistant) Ray (Lewington) and I have with him, from working with England – we were able to persuade him to come and join us,” Hodgson said.
“He hasn’t lost anything physical in terms of pace, mobility, aggression or technique – that has all stayed with him.
“The answer to the question why is he doing so well is because his character as a person and his desire to be a good professional footballer and do what he knows is his job to do and do it well and he does every week.
“We are so grateful that we got him because at the time it was a contentious decision. Don’t forget the previous season, the bulk of it had been played by James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho and they both did great.
“When both got injured, in comes Scott Dann and Martin Kelly and they do a great job for us as well, but we knew injuries would always be a risk factor.”
In addition to excelling in defence, Cahill has also impressed with his leadership skills during the last three games whilst wearing the captain’s armband.
Before the 1-0 win over Newcastle on February 22, Palace were without a victory in 2020 and the gap between them and the relegation zone had closed to six points.
The victory over the Magpies has been the catalyst for another great run of form, with the Eagles winning three consecutive games for the first time this term to sit 12 points above the bottom three.
Hodgson said: “There was never any doom or gloom that we are doing badly and going downhill. There was never that feeling in the ranks and we knew if we kept going, the results would turn and come our way.
“We didn’t know it would be quite as spectacular as it has been with three straight wins because during my time at the club we haven’t had many three straight wins.”