Captain Tom Cairney was delighted with Fulham’s fine start to the new Championship season after they defeated the favourites for automatic promotion Newcastle United in their opening game last night.
The former Hull and Blackburn midfielder, handed the captain’s armband following the departure of Ross McCormack and with club captain Scott Parker on the bench, was part of an all-action midfield that more than matched the visitors for energy and application. Cairney was judged the man-of-match by Sky having put in the corner from which Matt Smith emphatically headed the only goal of the game on the stroke of half time.
The midfielder told Fulham’s official website that the enormity of the occasion had registered with him as the big kick-off drew closer:
In a strange way, I had butterflies all week in the build up to the game. Newcastle at home, under the lights, to kick of the season, it doesn’t really get much bigger so every night you’d be thinking about it and just couldn’t wait to get started. What a way to start.
It was the best atmosphere I’ve played in at the Cottage yet. Our fans were brilliant. We knew Newcastle were going to bring numbers – and I think it was nearly a full house. Maybe that’s what it was like for Fulham in the Premier League or in Europe a few years ago. It was some experience.
I was pleased with my performance. I knew they’d have the lion’s share of possession and I just tried to do what I could when I got the ball and I was happy that I made the goal.
Cairney highlighted the way he has managed to successfully interlink with new signings Sone Aluko and Floyd Ayite in the spaces behind a lone striker as something that head coach Slavisa Jokanovic has nurtured throughout a busy pre-season.
It’s been fantastic. We’ve kind of had to gel quite quickly. Floyd’s got energy, Sone’s got pace and a clever football brain, Matt Smith just drags people round him and I like to get in pockets. It worked quite well tonight, but hopefully it can keep going and building as the season goes on.
We just want to keep on winning. It’s a great habit – we’ve done it mostly all pre-season as well. Leyton Orient and then Preston, it’s tough, but we’ll take confidence from that performance.
To lead the boys out tonight was a very special feeling, it’s something I’ll never forget and I’m very proud of. It was great for my family sitting there to watch it.