Tom Cairney is close to making a long-awaited return from his knee injury – but the midfielder is likely to regain his match fitness for Fulham’s under 23 side before joining the fight against relegation from the Premier League.

The Fulham captain hasn’t made an appearance since December’s 1-1 draw against Newcastle after aggravating a knee problem that he first sustained during pre-season. Cairney saw two specialists and underwent laser surgery and, although the 30 year-old briefly missed training after experiencing soreness a couple of weeks ago, Scott Parker confirmed that the Scottish international is now an active participant in Motspur Park sessions again.

The Fulham boss told his pre-match press conference before Saturday night’s meeting with Manchester City that Cairney could make a return to competitive football for Fulham’s under 23 against Stoke on Monday.

“Tom is back training with us, but not (ready) for the weekend I would have thought. He might need a game to get some football because he’s been out for a long time now.”