Cahill relishing Socceroo mentoring role

For Australian supporters throughout the country and across the world, Tim Cahill has one job to do at this month's AFC Asian Cup - score the goals to fire the Socceroos to glory.

And while you can guarantee that's part of the plan, the 35-year-old sees his role rather differently.

As well as leading the line and terrorising opposition defences on the pitch, the New York Red Bulls man values his off-field role, as mentor to an inexperienced group of players, just as highly.

"I love this because it's teaching the young crop of lads the way forward," Cahill said when asked about the meticulous preparations undertaken by head coach Ange Postecoglou.

"When you put good habits into them at young ages, it can only reap rewards. I feel with this group of boys, it's important."

While the national team has undergone significant regeneration since Postecoglou took over in October 2013, Australia are yet to discover a striker worthy of succeeding Cahill's vaunted mantle.

The man himself has enormous belief in the players vying to replace him in the long term and is doing his utmost to boost their own confidence. 

"I feel responsible for guiding them on and off the park," he said.

"It's important because every single player, but particularly in my position, if they really believe they can score goals in this tournament then they will. And if we start them in training and off the park with that mental focus - they don't actually know how really good they are, until you open that up inside them."

Cahill is now taking the time to nurture the next generation, but the former Samoa youth international received no such gentle mentoring when he was breaking into the 'golden generation' that finally ended the Socceroos' wait for a second World Cup appearance.

"Coming through in the Australian team with all the boys playing in Europe was sink or swim," he said.

"We had an exceptional group of players and if you didn't play, that's because you weren't good enough. You had to be good enough when you come into camp next (time).

"You always had your Muskys (Kevin Muscat), your Mooreys (Craig Moore), 'Spider' (Zeljko Kalac), (Tony) Popovic - tough guys but also fair. Tough and fair is great back in the old school, I prefer it that way. 

"Now it's different. The game's evolved. (Now it's) tough but cautious," he added with a wry smile.

"Now, with this group of players, it's about having that nice, calm environment - but on the pitch, it has to be ruthless. Because that's the only way to get results."

Pressed on whether or not today's players suffer a deficit in grit from living the cocooned lifestyle of elite professional athletes, Australia's all-time leading scorer insisted his young team-mates still have what it takes to scrap with the best of them.

"You're only protected as much as you want to be protected," he said.

"I never want to be protected as a player, I prefer to always be pushed on and off the park. For these players, if you want to win, it has to be 95 minutes of sheer work. We will play great football."

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