Scottish football writers have begun to find it surprising that Tom Cairney hasn’t featured in the national team despite their recent struggles – and the Fulham midfielder has said he would love to earn a first senior call-up.
Cairney, who qualifies through his Scottish-born father, has been consistently ignored by beleaguered Scottish boss Gordon Strachan and says that he ignores the prospect of playing international football these days to mask the continual disappointment of being overlooked. The playmaker, who earned eight under-21 caps earlier in his career, told the Daily Mail:
I try not to think about it now. Last season, when I was up for player-of-the-month awards, I thought it might happen. I was in good form and when it came round to squad announcements I hoped maybe an injury would help me get in. It was the same earlier this season – shortlisted for an award and thinking: “This time”. It’s probably not good for me. I just need to put it to the back of my head and whatever will be will be.
I speak to [Fulham team-mate] Chris [Martin] about Scotland and he loves going away. But it’s Gordon Strachan’s decision. Maybe the hardest thing is getting there. I feel like once I get there and train with the boys, I’d stay in.’
My dad was young when his father moved south to work in the pit but he always stayed true to his roots. I had all the Scotland kits as a boy and on holiday we’d head up to Uddingston to stay with his family – big Celtic fans.
Cairney credits Slavisa Jokanovic’s recent tactical switch – returning him to his preferred central midfield position – with his excellent form that has coincided with Fulham’s march up the Championship table.
I think this is the best form I’ve shown,’ he said. ‘I’m playing in my favoured position, which is in the middle of a three, rather than out wide on the right where I’ve been used in the past. I just try to make us play really. [Stefan] Johansen has lots of energy and Kev[in McDonald] wins most of the balls. I just try to create and nick a goal if I can.
The former Hull and Blackburn midfielder has made scoring more goals a target as his manager had stressed that side of his game needed to improve if Fulham were to be more successful.
I’ve got four this season but I want to beat last season’s tally. When I’m in the right positions, I feel like I can finish and there are not too many of us like that. Goalscoring midfielders, we’re a bit of a dying breed.
Despite his silky skills, Cairney knows what it is like to battle through adversity. Leeds’ decision to release him at sixteen on account of his small size seems baffling know but the midfielder used the disappointment as motivation to prove a professional career – and he has also had to overcome serious injuries to make it in the game.
I was released by Leeds United at 16 for being too small. It was crazy because two-and-a-half years later I made my Premier League debut with Hull. ‘I’d been at Leeds from the age of seven and it felt like my whole world had ended. I knew I just needed the time. I was a late developer and once I matched everyone physically, it went back to football ability and I came through. The Hull first team did well and it all clicked into place.
He retains hopes of returning to the Premier League but has got used to the hustle and bustle of the Championship and knows the competitive nature of the league will make helping Fulham win promotion one of the toughest challenges of his career.
Everyone beats everyone in this league, it’s horrendous. It’s relentless but it’s an exciting league and, if we can stick in around the top six, we’ll have a chance. I want to play in the Premier League. That’s everyone’s dream, isn’t it? I feel like I can play at that level and I think if I get there I will stay there. Personally, I’m very happy but I would love the chance to represent Scotland again at full level.