I've got a confession to make, ladies and gents: I'm in love with Gary Cahill.
Now, before you abuse me in the comments section or tweet me with a barrage of expletives, hear me out. I'm in love with our former centre-half (who never won Player of the Year, which in itself is a fucking travesty) for strictly footballing reasons. Please keep reading, I'm begging you.
On December 30th 2008, we signed a 23-year-old Cahill from Aston Villa for £5million. Not a bad bit of business at the time, but the majority of Wanderers fans wondered why then-manager Gary Megson had splashed the cash on someone that was relatively unknown. He was quickly drafted into the first team and began to win over fans with his pace, positioning and leadership. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we knew we were on to something pretty special with Big Gaz.
He was handed the No. 5 shirt by Megson after the great Abdoulaye Méïté departed the club, and, 18 months after signing for us, Cahill penned a new three-and-a-half-year contract, proving his unwavering loyalty. In 2010 he became the first Wanderers player to represent England since Michael Ricketts as he came on as a second half substitute for Michael Dawson in England's 4-0 win over Bulgaria at Wembley Stadium. It was at that moment that I knew he was destined to leave us.
Cahill was linked with many top clubs in the run up to his transfer, but as the end of his contract loomed (ironically in the same summer we were relegated from the Premier League - imagine if he'd stayed and saved us) Chelsea emerged as front-runners to secure his signature. He played in a crucial win against Everton at Goodison Park during the height of his speculation, in which he actually scored, but sadly he departed just days later after we conceded defeat and allowed the big boys to splash their cash.
Now here's the part that gets me. We sold Cahill for £7million. SEVEN MILLION POUNDS. He was an England international going to a top four club and we could only manage to get seven million quid for him?! I appreciate that his contract was running out, but surely we could've squeezed a bit more out of Abramovich & Co? And we wonder why our club is in the shit when it comes to finances. He's probably worth treble that now.
Anyway, as we continued on our slippery slope to the Championship, Cahill soared to new heights with Chelsea. In a particular classy act, when he scored his debut Chelsea goal against Leicester in the FA Cup he revealed the words, "PRAY 4 MUAMBA" on his under-shirt as he celebrated. I fell in love with him all over again that day.
He also won the Champions League and the FA Cup less than six months after leaving us. Imagine that. A player goes from relegation-scrapping Bolton to Champions League winning Chelsea in less than six months. Genuinely, and I'm not fucking about here, I cried twice in May 2012 - once when the mighty S.S. BWFC sank to the second tier of English football, and once when I saw Gary Cahill lift the Champions League trophy aloft with a look of pure delight on his face.
In more recent times Cahill has become a Chelsea regular, captaining the club on countless occasions, and playing in almost every England game since leaving us. He even managed to captain the national side earlier this year, leading Roy's Boys out against Estonia at Wembley.
If we look back on the seasons prior to our relegation it's clear that the loss of key, key players like Cahill and Stuart Holden (fuck Johnny Evans) were instrumental to our demise, and although they're not the whole reason we went down, they definitely played a huge part.
I will always love Gary Cahill. Not like I love my family or Bolton Wanderers, but in a different, more 'proud dad' kind of way. Each time I see him play in big games or represent his country, a part of me smiles, safe in the knowledge that I've celebrated over countless goals he's scored and sang his name on numerous occasions when he was turning out for a small town club like ours on a Saturday afternoon.
Gary, if you're reading this, thank you for what you did for our football club. I look forward to crying like a five-year-old girl next summer when you lift the Euro 2016 trophy in Paris.
Thank you, and good night.