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Silva confident Cairney’s injury hell is behind him

Marco Silva believes that a specialist training programme devised by Fulham’s medical staff has helped Tom Cairney put his longstanding knee problems behind him.

The Fulham head coach tasked the club’s head of performance, Bruno Mundes, and new medical supremo – Chris Hanson – to come up with an individual training plan that would allow Cairney to make progress in his recovery from persistent knee problems without pain after the midfielder managed to take part in only one session following Silva’s appointment at Craven Cottage. The result saw the playmaker return to full training quicker than expected – and mark his first appearance in ten months with the opening goal against Cardiff City last night.

Silva hopes that emotional motion means that Cairney can put his injury nightmare in the past and that the Fulham skipper can make a significant contribution as the Whites look to secure an immediate return to the top flight. He told his post-match press conference:

“Tom was in a specific situation when I arrived at the club. “As you know he had some problems last season and when he started working pre-season with his team-mates, we felt we couldn’t carry on this way with constant pain and we decided with Tom that we have to stop him.

“Now, maybe in the last three weeks, four weeks, he started to recover on the pitch – not feeling the same pain. Of course he is not in his best physical condition. He has to improve and if the game is really intense for 90 minutes, of course he will struggle a bit, but the good thing is he’s not feeling pain any more in his knee.

I think we did the right thing with him there. He’s worked really hard. It was tough to see him always in the gym when we went to the pitch. It’s part of the life of a professional footballer, but it’s good to see him again and let’s hope in the future the pain won’t come back again and we can see Tom playing at his best level again.”

Wilson happy with professional performance

Harry Wilson was delighted with the professional way Fulham broke down a stubborn Cardiff side as they moved into the automatic promotion places following a 2-0 win tonight.

The Welsh winger, who spent last season on loan at the Bluebirds, had a hand in both of the goals as Fulham had to wait until well after half time to take the lead. His shot was deflected into the path of Tom Cairney, who crashed home from the edge of the box on his return from ten months out injured, and Wilson won the ball high up the pitch to start the move that saw Aleksandar Mitrovic double lead.

Wilson told FFCTV after the final whistle that he knew it was likely to be a tough assignment against Mick McCarthy’s men and felt Fulham more than merited the three points:

“Going into the game, we knew it was going to be a tough game. We know that they’re not in the best run of form at the minute, but that could have changed for them tonight so we were desperate to make sure we went out there and got the win to follow up the win we got at the weekend. First half was tough. We created chances, but I thought they played well. Second half, it was a great strike from TC and then that set us on the way and we could have had quite a few more.

“There was a bit of water on the pitch but we said at half time we just need to keep moving the ball, keep them working and the chances will appear. I think once we got the first that settled us down and we got the second and, as I said, we probably could have got a few more. At the other end, Marek makes a good save at 2-0 and if they score then it would have been a nervy last ten minutes or so.

The winger admitted he was a little disappointed with the fact that his assists have dropped off a bit in recent games but was pleased with his contribution to a crucial win.

“I think I am. The last few weeks I’ve been a bit disappointed that my numbers have dropped a bit for goals and assists but as long as the team are winning and I can help – like you say, winning the ball back high for Mitrovic’s goal. I think my shot was deflected for Tom’s goal as well. I’d like to think I played my part in both of the goals.”

He had plenty of praise for Cairney’s determination and quality after such a dispiriting spell on the sidelines.

“I’ve seen in my short time at the club all the hard work he’s been putting in off the pitch that of course the fans don’t see. When we’re at training, he’s in the gym working hard. He’s joined back in the last few weeks upping his fitness. He’s probably not at fittest tonight but when he came in, it was like he’d never been away. He was keeping the ball, getting forward and when he got his chance he didn’t think twice about it and to see it fly in the back of net was a great moment. You can see the technique he’s got, we know he’s got that quality – and for him to do it so quickly in his comeback was brilliant.”

Cairney deserved fairytale return, says Silva

Tom Cairney deserved to mark his return to first team action with a goal after all his hard work to recover from a serious knee injury, according to Fulham boss Marco Silva.

The club captain took just twelve minutes to break the deadlock at Craven Cottage this afternoon after he came on as a half-time substitute having been sidelined for ten months with persistent knee problems. The classy playmaker volleyed home majestically after Harry Wilson’s shot had been blocked to shatter Cardiff’s brave resistance – and Fulham moved into the Championship’s top two after Aleksandar Mitrovic added a second six minutes later.

Silva was full of praise for his returning hero after the final whistle.

“We can take many positives from the game. We scored two good goals, we kept being patient and kept playing the same way. The first goal was important for us as the game was more open and there was space for us to explore. It was a clean sheet too, which is important as well, and it was important for Tom to score.

“He deserves it after all these months out and it has been so tough for him, so good to come back with a goal after working so hard in the gym which has been so hard for him. You can imagine how happy he is, these feelings in the moment are great and he helped the team win the game. I had to decide on him or Josh Onomah to bring on and brought him on to give more creativity in that position which he did.”

Silva is confident that Harrison Reed will be fit to face Nottingham Forest on Saturday, despite being withdrawn as a precaution at half time after feeling tightness in his calf.

“I am waiting on the feedback of the medical staff about the calf. I don’t think it is serious, but we will have to wait and see what the scans say.”

Comeback king Cairney cracks Cardiff’s resistance

After ten torturous months on the sidelines with knee trouble, it took just twelve minutes for Fulham favourite Tom Cairney to mark his return in style. The club captain, a talismanic figure in two Championship promotion seasons, crashed home an unstoppable volley off his majestic left foot to end Cardiff’s stubborn resistance and lift the Whites back into the automatic promotion positions. The enormity of the moment was encapsulated both by the roar of the Hammersmith End for their hero and Cairney’s own emotions – he looked close to tears as he peeled away from his team-mates, covered his face briefly and lifted both arms in a brief moment of reflection.

Plenty had doubted whether Cairney, absent since a 1-1 draw with Newcastle last December, would ever return to the Fulham side. His history of horrendous knee injuries certainly added to the psychological trauma of his latest setback, which allowed the playmaker to complete only a single training session under Marco Silva until the recent international break. The speed of his reintroduction to the first team squad – Cairney was an unused substitute against QPR on Saturday – took many by surprise and there would have been a few hearts in mouths when he replaced Harrison Reed here at half time, especially as Cardiff had demonstrated their physicality in a scrappy and competitive first half.

Deploying Cairney in a deeper role he sometimes occupied under Scott Parker seemed a serious gamble after Reed had felt his calf in the dying stages of the first half, but Cairney – so often Fulham’s creative hub over the years – immediately enlivened Fulham’s previously ponderous possession. He linked up cleverly with Bobby Decordova-Reid, who crashed a shot against Mark McGuiness, and began the move that saw Aleksandar Mitrovic head Neeskens Kebano’s cross into the arms of Alex Smithies.

But Cairney’s starring moment just before the half mark. Harry Wilson, a persistent threat against his former club, threatened to weave his way through after a mazy dribble across the penalty area but the Welshman’s progress was halted by a desperate defensive tackle. The ball fell for Cairney, who lashed home a rising finish from the edge of the box to score his first Fulham goal in almost a year. It was a fairytale return for one of Fulham’s finest modern servants – and Marco Silva will be delighted to have one of the division’s most dangerous midfielders fit and firing again.

The goal galvanised Fulham and the hosts quickly made sure of all three points. They were handed a second on a plate six minutes later when a woeful pass out from the back by Joel Bagan was intercepted by Wilson, allowing Decordova-Reid to pick out Mitrovic, who rolled home a simple finish from thirteen yards, leaving Aden Flint trailing in his wake. The Cardiff board had given Mick McCarthy two more games to save his job after the dismal derby defeat at Swansea on Sunday, but it remains to be seen whether the beleaguered boss lasts until Saturday’s meeting with Middlesbrough after a seventh straight defeat that leaves them barely above the bottom three.

To Cardiff’s great credit, they were competitive to the last, enlivened by the late introduction of substitutes James Collins, Kieran Evans and Mark Harris. The visitors might have made a game of it in the closing stages, pouring forward regularly with Flint firing over at the back post after McGuiness had flicked on Bagan’s cross. The outstanding Kieffer Moore forced a fine save from Marek Rodak after his drive had deflected off the diving Tim Ream, with the Slovak international at full stretch to tip the Welsh striker’s snapshot over the bar.

Fulham had began on the front foot after their derby demolition of QPR with Decordova-Reid almost scoring against his former employers inside two minutes when he stooped to head Wilson’s cross inches wide after a well-worked short corner. Reed rattled a drive over from outside the box a minute later before Moore, an imposing presence in the Cardiff forward line, darted away from Ream to reach a raking ball from the impressive Rubin Colwill and thumped a venomous drive off angle of post and bar with Rodak motionless.

The home side enjoyed nearly two-thirds of the ball in a first half they dominated with Wilson regularly breaking into dangerous pockets of space behind the Cardiff midfield. He produced an impudent backheel after latching onto a lovely through ball from Jean Michael Seri and Kebano rattled the far post with a rasping drive from the edge of the box. The visitors offered an immediate riposte with Marlon Pack taking aim after being afforded too much space outside the area – but the former Bristol City midfielder’s shot didn’t dip quite enough to beat Rodak.

Despite the stalemate, the engaging encounter was developing into an end-to-end contest. Reed brought a sprawling save out of Smithies from distance after rampaging forward from the halfway line and ignoring white shirts out on the flank. Cardiff came just as close before the break when Colwill crept onto a clever Moore knock down and drifted inside Denis Odoi before curling a shot a yard wide of Rodak’s far post.

Ultimately, two moments of quality from Fulham’s star players made the difference. This might not have been a vintage home display, but it is the kind of result the Whites will need to replicate regularly if they are to mount a serious promotion push. They leapfrogged West Brom, who were beaten by Swansea tonight, on goal difference but remain five points behind Parker’s unbeaten Bournemouth. There were encouraging cameos from young strikers Rodrigo Muniz and Jay Stansfield, who will both lay claim as understudies to leading man Mitrovic, whose all-around play was again as importance as his thirteenth goal of the campaign that put the game beyond the struggling visitors.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Odoi, Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri, Reed (Cairney 45); Kebano, Wilson (Stansfield 90), Decordova-Reid; Mitrovic (Muniz 89). Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Tete, Mawson, Onomah.

GOALS: Cairney (57), Mitrovic (63).

CARDIFF CITY (4-2-3-1): Smithies; Ng, Bagan, McGuiness, Flint; Vaulks, Pack; Giles (Harris 73), Bowen (Collins 66), Colwill (Evans 73); Moore. Subs (not used): Phillips, Morrison, Brown, Patten.

BOOKED: Pack, Bagan, Ng.

REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).

ATTENDANCE: 15,789.

Tete needs to win his place back, says Silva

Marco Silva insists that fit-again Kenny Tete will not walk straight back into his Fulham side.

The Dutch defender, absent since injuring his hamstring in the 2-0 win over Hull City back in August, resumed full training with his team-mates during the international break and Silva confirmed that Tete will be available for selection against Cardiff City at Craven Cottage tonight. But the Fulham boss believes he is spoilt for choice at right back after Denis Odoi deputised for Tete successfully.

“It’s a very good fight between him, Kenny and Christie, and Kenny has to show he is better than the others. It’s what Kenny is trying to do, and for sure, Denis will do the same. Kenny has shown he’s now ready to play, and I will take the decision for each match.

“I think Denis is improving and he had a very good first game against Stoke. Of course, there were some ups and downs like the team. But Denis is a very good professional that allows him to work every single day really hard. I know every training session and every match day he gives 100%.”

Up next: Cardiff City (h)

In their different ways, both Marco Silva and Jean Michael Seri hit on Fulham’s biggest problem as the Whites look to plot their path back to the Premier League. Some of Fulham’s football as they dismantled Queens Park Rangers on Saturday was sublime, but in the fifteen minutes after half time when the visitors got themselves on the front foot, it looked as though the hosts might capitulate from a winning position as they did at Coventry before the international break. Consistency is key in getting out of the Championship – and it has been far too elusive for Silva this season.

For a while on Sunday, it looked as if the mauling Cardiff suffered at the hands of their bitter rivals Swansea City would put Mick McCarthy out of his misery. The Bluebirds have lost six straight games and McCarthy’s primitive methods looked badly dated when compared with the more modern and easy on the eye approach preferred by Russell Martin. Cardiff’s football has been both predictable and below-par for far too long, but the board – according to reports from Wales – have given McCarthy the games against Fulham and Middlesbrough to save his job.

Given Fulham’s ability to be ever so generous against sides woefully out of form, it wouldn’t come as a galloping shock to see Cardiff end their worst run of form since 1985 at Craven Cottage this evening. Indeed, it would be the definition of Fulhamish. But the fact that the Cardiff hierarchy are happy to keep McCarthy in post for the time being still appears baffling, especially as his side seem shorn of the sort of creative influences that make a serious difference in the final third. Fulham’s very Harry Wilson had a quietly effective campaign on loan at the Bluebirds last season – and another former Fulham loanee Sheyi Oyi also added pace on the wings – and McCarthy’s curious decision to field five centre backs in a local derby hinted at the fact that the club simply haven’t recruited adequate replacements over the summer.

Cardiff will clearly be physical, stubborn and tough to break down tonight as they seek the sort of result that could kickstart their season. Fulham’s task is to do something they have failed at too often already this term – replicate the Rangers result by putting together another stylish showing. Silva will be without Ivan Cavaleiro and Joe Bryan, who both had to replaced after picking up injuries in the derby demolition, whilst Fabio Carvalho’s Covid isolation has hampered his delayed recovery from a fractured toe. Kenny Tete could return against the Bluebirds, although Silva was at pains to point out that he probably wouldn’t last a full ninety minutes, and captain Tom Cairney – an unused substitute at the weekend – also needs to build up match fitness. Risking two of the club’s key players against a side show to be putting the boot in might not be the smartest move.

Cavaleiro’s absence should allow Neeskens Kebano, who was excellent again against QPR, to continue in the starting line-up. The Congolese winger played a key part in two of Fulham’s goals and should now get the sort of extended run in the side he has been crying out for throughout his time with the club. Bobby Decordova-Reid, who scored the vital third on Saturday with a wonderfully assured finish from Seri’s superb pass, is the likeliest replacement for Cavaleiro against his old club – and it will be interesting to see who starts in the number ten. Wilson began in that position against QPR but was largely used as a decoy runner by his team-mates before Decordova-Reid moved infield to devastating effect.

It is simply too easy to glibly classify this as a home banker, although that is what all the pundits appear to have already done. Fulham have slipped up on plenty of banana skins already this season – few would have seen the defeats to Blackpool and Reading coming for example – and the Championship’s glorious unpredictability means you can’t take any fixture for granted. But Silva knows that the Whites can’t afford to allow a gap to grow between themselves and the top two if Seri’s ambition of going up as champions is to be achieved. Champions knit together impressive winning runs and Fulham will have to do that sooner rather than later.

MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Odoi, Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri, Reed; Kebano, Decordova-Reid, Wilson, Mitrovic. Subs: Gazzaniga, Mawson, Tete, Chalobah, Onomah, Cairney, Muniz.

Carvalho, Cavaleiro and Bryan to miss Cardiff clash

Fulham will be without Fabio Carvalho, Ivan Cavaleiro and Joe Bryan for tomorrow night’s meeting with Cardiff City, Marco Silva has confirmed this afternoon.

Teenage playmaker Carvalho, who has been missing since the end of August with a toe problem, has suffered a setback in his recovery after testing positive for coronavirus. Silva told his pre-match press conference:

“Unfortunately, Fabio got Covid. Now he’s recovering from that situation and was with us yesterday. Let’s see how he reacts from this situation because he stopped for 10 days and had a bad reaction from the situation. Of course, now he has to recover his physical condition.”

Both Bryan and Cavaleiro were substituted during the 4-1 win over QPR on Saturday having picked up injuries.

“Both of them will miss the game tomorrow. The next game, it’s possible, let’s see. Ivan, we have to see every day and take a decision after that. Joe Bryan is nothing really serious but we have to check tomorrow again and take the decision, but both of them will miss the game.”

Kenny Tete, also absent since August having damaged a hamstring, could be in line to return against Cardiff, although Silva admitted the Dutch international was not ready to play ninety minutes. The Fulham boss is looking forward to the return of captain Tom Cairney, who was an unused substitute against Rangers at the weekend.

“He will have an impact in our squad. In the way I like to play, the way our team is playing, he will have an impact. You understand that he needs more time, of course, because he just started training with us 10-15 days ago and needs more time to get everything right in the idea of the team, what he needs to do in every moment of the match. But with his quality, his experience, and everything he can give – and has already given – for this football club, he will be an important player for us.”

Seri seeks to repay Fulham faithful

Jean Michael Seri wants to repay the Fulham fans for their faith in him by leading the Whites back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

The Ivorian international has been in revelation since being reintroduced to the Fulham midfield by new boss Marco Silva and told FFCTV this afternoon of his delight at being back involved in the first team:

“I am trying to give my best every game. I know that it is not easy, it is tough. We play every three or four days. I’m trying to give my best to my team mates and my partner to get them in a good situation. I want to play good football. Since the manager came here, he tried to explain to us how he wanted to play and I am trying to do that.

“It was not a good situation for me to go on loan every time – the first one with Galatasaray and then Bordeaux. I wanted to be on the team, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. This year I’m very happy to be here, I am happy to help the team score a lot of goals and I’m really enjoying it.”

Seri admitted he was surprised to have become the subject of his own song so soon after returning to the Fulham side and says the adoration of the Fulham faithful is a huge personal motivation for him as he tries to reignite his career in England.

I’m very grateful. I didn’t expect that – for me it wasn’t a great moment before, I wanted to improve more and more but since I started against Huddersfield, they started to be behind me. I was confused. I asked Neeksens: ‘Is my name there?’ And he said, ‘Yes. It’s your name’. When I saw the game again, I realised it was for me. I’m very grateful. It is a big motivation for me. I will give it all to not disappoint them, to stay at this level and to be back in the Premier League.

Despite an outstanding individual display in the victory over Queens Park Rangers at the weekend, a modest Seri downplayed the song’s suggestion that he was better than French gift Zinedine Zidane:

“No, no, no. I try sometimes to break the lines of the opponent. Bobby ran in a good way, so I passed the ball. I saw yesterday it was very tight. I took the right decision at the right moment and the ball goes through. I have to think quickly and fast. In this league, it is very tough and intensive, so you if you don’t think quickly you will be in trouble.”

Reed relishing new role

Harrison Reed is ‘loving’ his new role as a box-to-box midfielder after new Fulham boss Marco Silva asked him to operate in a more advanced position this season.

The former Southampton midfielder became a crucial cog in the Craven Cottage machine after impressing as a defensively-minded presence in front of the Fulham back four, but after battling persistent injury problems that delayed his introduction into Silva’s new-look side, Reed is now being deployed as a more adventurous member of Fulham’s new-look midfield. The 26 year-old, who made his third consecutive start against QPR on Saturday, told the Athletic:

“I’m loving it. The manager spoke to me and said he’d watched my games from last season and he had seen me before and that he feels I can bring a dynamic, box-to-box side of the game to the team. He knows about my defensive side and defensive mindset, and he said he just wants to push me a little bit more and put me higher up the pitch.

It is working really well. I really enjoy playing in that position, I feel I have got a good balance with Mika. I need to start chipping in with goals and assists but I’m sure if I keep getting in the right positions and keep working on it and analysing, they will come.”

Sublime Seri pulls the strings

It was understandable that Aleksandar Mitrovic hogged the headlines this morning after his brace broke the back of QPR’s resistance and decisively turned the west London derby Fulham’s way. The Serbian striker’s looping header in the second half was a thing of beauty and probably proved the pivotal moment at a point when the visitors had inched their way back into the contest and were arguably on top. We all know about Mitrovic’s remarkable Championship scoring record and he is well established as Fulham’s talisman, but the sight of Jean Michael Seri running the show from central midfield still seems remarkable.

To describe the Ivorian’s previous three years with Fulham as undistinguished would probably win the award of the understatement of the year. For two of those seasons, a player the Whites parted with at least £22m to sign was not even at the club – farmed out on loan to Galatasaray and Bordeaux in the aftermath of a horrible first term in English football where Fulham, despite three changes in management, proved woefully ill-equipped to survive in the top flight. Seri seemed surplus to requirements this summer, too, with a permanent exit on the cards until new boss Marco Silva, a long time admirer from the playmaker’s days in Portugal with Paços de Ferreira, restored him to the Fulham midfield.

Seri’s transformation from costly folly to the crucial cog in the club’s engine room must rank as one of the most unlikely redemption stories in Fulham’s history. He seems ideally suited to Silva’s method of winning promotion back to the Premier League, with the pragmatism of Scott Parker decisively ditched for a far more cavalier way of playing football. I’ve previously voiced my concerns about Seri being used in a deep-lying role at the base of the midfield but it worked wonderfully against a Rangers midfield that struggled to nullify Fulham’s patient passing, with his experience and mobility allowing him to dictate proceedings behind the industry of Harrison Reed.

The 30 year-old played a crucial part in the opening goal delivering a trademark switch of play to release Neeskens Kebano into the space down the right with a raking ball from the middle of the field. There were plenty of more precise passes, too – ten in total into the final third – and, in a underappreciated addition to his game this season, Seri isn’t afraid to do his share of the dirty work. He won possession back six times in the QPR half as Fulham played with an intensity befitting this local derby. To underline Seri’s importance, he played the most passes of any Fulham player – 76 – whilst also receiving the highest number (51).

His most perceptive pass was the one that finally broke Rangers, just four minutes after Mitrovic had restored the hosts lead. A patient passage of passing was suddenly injected with a forward thrust when Bobby Decordova-Reid, switched to the number ten role in the aftermath of Lyndon Dykes’ equaliser, prodded a pass back towards the halfway line for Seri. He took it calmly in his stride, watched Decordova-Reid accelerate into space between the QPR defence, and stroked a glorious ball through the middle of the park. So perfectly weighted was the pass that Decordova-Reid hardly had to break stride as he advanced on Seny Dieng’s goal and his measured finish put the game beyond the visitors.

From being on the cusp of a permanent departure from the Cottage, Seri’s importance to Fulham’s fortunes is suddenly undeniable. Just as importantly, he has a smile on his face and is enjoying his football – after a chastening start to his time in England. His gleeful embrace of Decordova-Reid in the goal celebrations showed that as did the way he applauded the Hammersmith End for serenading him as he prepared to take a late corner. As the song suggests, Marco Silva’s man is finally making his mark.