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Cairney feels Fulham’s confidence growing

Tom Cairney says Fulham’s confidence is sky high following seven straight wins – and believes Marco Silva’s side could be on track to be the best Fulham team he has played in.

The captain told the club’s official website this morning:

“I’ve played in some very good Fulham sides, and the thing about this team is we’re scoring a lot of goals. We’ve hit three or four a few times this season, which is not easy to do, so when you do that and you believe you can do that going into games, it fills you with a lot of confidence. And we’ve got a striker who’s on 21 goals in November, which is a bit crazy, and he would have had another if he wasn’t so unselfish.

It’s stupid, it’s a little bit silly. I know the Championship record is 31, hopefully he can keep this form up. He’s on course to have a very, very special season. When you’re going into games with that in your armoury, it fills you with confidence.”

Cairney knows that Derby will represent another stern test tomorrow night after beating Bournemouth at the weekend. He is full of sympathy for the Rams’ plight following their points deductions.

“I’ve not been a player in that position so I can’t imagine what it’s like, but I’m sure it’s hard. You’re fighting an uphill battle after having points taken off you. It’s tough being at the bottom of the league and obviously there’s a big gap now, so as a professional player I do have sympathy for them, but we’ve got to do our professional job and go out there and try and beat them. If they get out of it then I think it’s one of the best escapes in Championship history. We’ve seen crazy things in football before so we can’t rule them out, but it’s a massive uphill climb.”

Silva’s stylish side sets pulses racing

It’s been a while since I penned my thoughts, in fact, I’ve really not written for a long time. I won’t go into everything, but I think something you learn once you enter your 20s is life isn’t what you imagine as a child or teen. Sure, if you know what you want to do with your life and know the path to get there – it helps. As someone who left school not really knowing, each day can leave you feeling quite lost. Well finally I feel somewhat on track, with a new job and an actual career path. My work-life balance is the best it’s been and philosophically I’m happier, healthier and better. Though hurdles will continue to occur for someone like me, I’m the best place I’ve been to bat them away.

Anyway, onto Fulham. We’re coming to a key part of the season for Marco Silva’s side. Statistically, half of the sides that top the table on Boxing Day go on to win the Championship title. With no international break until March, this is a period where Europe’s most demanding division turns treacherous. The games come thick and thin with the build up to Christmas and that will test even the strongest of squads. Silva has so far coped with injury crises – Denis Odoi deputised for Kenny Tete admirably even if nobody would pretend that the Belgian veteran is as accomplished a right back as the Dutch international. No one foresaw Fabio Carvalho’s early importance coming but even with his injury, but Fulham have adjusted to his prolonged absence pretty healthily. The Domingos Quina experiment might have been quickly abandoned but Bobby Decordova-Reid has slotted into the number ten role nicely – only Harry Wilson has carved out more chances for the Whites this season. Even Tosin Adarabioyo’s suspension for that moment of madness against West Brom hasn’t unduly discomforted the defence, as Michael Hector filled in to good effect.

Confidence must be high at Craven Cottage after a run of six straight wins, during which Silva’s side have amassed 21 goals and conceded only one. The strength in depth that the Fulham head coach has at his disposal is demonstrated by the fact that the returning Cairney, Carvalho and Tete have started our most recent fixtures on the bench. Rodrigo Muniz appears to acclimatising nicely to English football – notching an impressive brace after coming on as a substitute against Blackburn – and the Brazilian forward has detailed that he is enjoying learning from the best number nine in the division. Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose own confidence has to be soaring following his winner in Lisbon, dragged a limp Scott Parker side to promotion two seasons back but he looks an entirely different animal these days. Mitrovic is playing with a smile on his face and looks like scoring with every shot at the moment. There’s certainly no irony in singing about him being on fire at the moment.

His moment of individual redemption against Portugal was richly deserved after the ignominy of that penalty shoot-out failure against Scotland that cost Serbia a spot at the European Championships. So extraordinary are his scoring exploits that Fulham look utterly transformed in attack and the threat they pose in the opposition penalty area stands in stark contrast to the side that surrendered their Premier League safety so meekly, with Parker not even considering Mitrovic as an option to score the goals that an imperilled Fulham side badly needed. Looking back, that appears a horrific misjudgement at best.

Fulham’s current squad contains a multitude of talents and could have been guided to promotion by a PE teacher – the players have shown that already. The key thing is that Marco Silva can be the man to stabilise Fulham as a Premier League outfit – that is why he took this job. The football has been exhilarating at times, largely dominant in possession but with vertical threat and ruthlessness to create chance after chance. This Fulham side has scored 13 more goals than their nearest ‘goals for’ challenger whilst staying solid at the back with the second best defence in terms of goals conceded. Silva’s side have scored one more goal at this stage of last season than Jean Tigana’s 2000-01 promotion team featuring Louis Saha (who scored 27 in the league for that season – whilst Aleksandar Mitrovic sits on 20 with 29 games left to play).

Fulham have three fixtures to play before Parker’s return to Craven Cottage with the league leaders Bournemouth on December 3rd, in what is arguably the first blockbuster battle of the promotion campaign. All three matches before the Cherries come to the capital appear winnable, although nothing can be certain in such an unpredictable lead. Fulham host the two sides occupying the last two spots in the Championship relegation zone, before heading to Deepdale to take on Frankie McAvoy’s Preston North End, who are also currently ensconced in the bottom half of the table.

Without looking too far in the future, you get the feeling that this run to the New Year will be vital in Fulham’s title ambitions (yes, you get a gong for finishing 2nd but to go up as champions should be the only goal). In this December period, Fulham will want to set the tone, much like they did post-Coventry and with lots of games with little break – the entire squad will have to match the intensity, form and difference of their position group. If Aleksandar Mitrovic gets a knock, Rodrigo Muniz has to become the ‘big dog’ and the same applies for all of those on the fringes. If you’re on the fringes now – the chances are you’ll be replaced in the Premier League so step up when it’s your turn. That’s the attitude of champions and champions is what Fulham have to be.

It should be fun and I’m already looking forward to that first Friday in December, when Parker comes back in front of the Sky cameras and under the flood lights. You can’t fail to have been enthralled by the way Silva has taken to the early stages of his task of securing an immediate return to the top flight and, given the way he has spoken about having unfinished business in the Premier League, he will be determined to establish Fulham as a force at English football’s top table. This is shaping up to be a season that Fulham fans will look back on with similar fondness to that of 2000/01, when Tigana’s team stormed to promotion with style and panache.

Another update – I’m looking at writing more but sometimes I lack the initial creative idea or I start writing and can’t get the right flow (this for example, I’m not sure is great) but if there’s any questions you want answered or anything studied or discussed, send me a message on Twitter (@frankieptaylor) or respond to my articles and I’ll note to see what I can do.

Back to business

International breaks seem to have wreaked havoc with Fulham’s rhythm this season. The Whites were flying under Marco Silva in August but stuttered badly after the first interruption for national service, slipping to a first defeat of the season at Blackpool in September. The mere prospect of further international duty appeared to derail a positive performance at Coventry, with a shambolic second half in the rain leaving Silva seething after a 4-1 defeat.

Fulham have been flawless since that miserable afternoon in the Midlands with six straight wins helping the Whites cut the gap to league leaders performance to just a couple of points, whilst consolidating a firm grip on second place. The latest round of internationals had a few saving graces – Aleksandar Mitrovic’s joy and Cristiano Ronaldo’s sullen disappointment in Lisbon was coupled with a first under-21 international goal for Ollie O’Neill and places in the play-offs for Harry Wilson and Neeskens Kebano for instance – but getting back to the bread and butter of the Championship will be a welcome relief.

Nobody should take the tasks ahead lightly, though. Fulham might be in fine form but the prospect of Barnsley coming to Craven Cottage should send a few shudders down spines. The Tykes ruthlessly demolished Scott Parker’s side on their last visit, winning 3-0 with former Fulham forward Cauley Woodrow pivotal to a well deserved victory and they have a strong record against the Whites in recent times. Barnsley, who appointed Swedish under 21 coach Poya Asbaghi as their new boss today, will want to arrest the alarming run of form that saw Markus Schopp get his marching orders and their players may see the trip to London as a low-pressure way of making an impression.

Today’s episode of Motspur Parklife on the official website features a couple of eye-catching cameos from Tom Cairney and Rodrigo Muniz, with the skipper a good bet to feature at the weekend should Jean Michael Seri need a rest following his international exertions with the Ivory Coast. Seeing Kenny Tete lining up on the right side of the back four was reassuring after injury-plagued start to the season – and the Dutch defender looks certain to reclaim his first team spot against Barnsley with Denis Odoi suspended.

Silva will be cautious with Cairney comeback

Marco Silva says he will take no risks with Tom Cairney as the Fulham captain adjusts to playing regular football again after almost a year on the sidelines.

The Scottish international made a sensational return to first-team action by coming off the bench to score the opening goal in the win over Cardiff and then played ninety minutes in the 4-0 victory at Nottingham Forest. The 30 year-old was only introduced as a late substitute in last weekend’s triumph over promotion rivals West Brom – and Silva told his press conference earlier this afternoon that he will take exercise caution in utilising his playmaker.

“Even if he made that unbelievable impact against Cardiff, and then a normal game against Forest, it was clear to me he couldn’t play 90 minutes after that, but it’s important for me to give him minutes. He’s not in his best physical condition. He knows that, I know that. But he’s a real important player for us, even if he can play just 45 or 50 minutes.

Tom on the ball is high quality and gives us a little more balance. I think the international break will also be good to get him back to full fitness.”

Silva pleased with third straight win

Marco Silva was delighted after Fulham won their third game in a week by thrashing Nottingham Forest 4-0 at the City Ground this afternoon.

The Fulham boss admitted his side were far from their flawless best but was pleased that the Whites proved clinical in front of goal to move back into the Championship’s automatic promotion places again. Speaking to the press after the final whistle, Silva emphasised how impressive it was to see his side end Steve Cooper’s unbeaten start in charge of Forest.

“It was a tough game, like we expected. We came here to play against a team in a good moment. In the last six, they had won five. Since Steve’s arrival, they hadn’t had a bad result. Our aim was clear, to claim nine points in a week and that’s what we did. This is our way, it’s what we work on. Keeping a clean sheet is important, because to play good offensive football, you have to be compact as a team and be balanced. We clearly improved in the second-half, and scoring four goals again, it’s not the first time, it’s more than once.

Silva was particularly pleased that captain Tom Cairney came through his first ninety minutes in nearly a year unscathed.

“You saw how Tom finished the game. He was really tired. We tried to give 90 minutes because the result was under control. We have to work more with Tom, it’s all part of the process. If we have all our player available, we will be stronger as a team. Some moments we will be more compact, and sometimes we’ll be more creative. As a complete performance, we still have something more. The score gives a boost to the players’ confidence, and we’re really happy with the result.

The Fulham head coach also heaped praise on striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who added another brace in a display of first class finishing.

“Our goal is clear, we want to be successful at the end of the season. Every goal Mitrovic will come as a consequence of our game. He started well, and if you create for him, he’s a dangerous player. It’s up to us to create the conditions for him. Of course, he’s an important player for us, but everyone is working hard.”