Fulham captain Tom Cairney is loving playing for Marco Silva and says the side’s adventurous approach reminds him of the stylish football under Slavisa Jokanovic.
Cairney was delighted that Fulham followed up a seven goal haul at Reading by putting six past Bristol City yesterday to move back to the top of the Championship table. The Fulham playmaker told FFCTV:
“The style of play and attacking football I think is similar to the Slav season really. Going forward we were quite exciting to watch and devastating under Slav for two seasons in the Championship. I think this is very similar even though we’re outscoring the Slavisa team at the moment. It’s a joy to play in going forward, obviously Mitro’s record at the minute is frightening. I feel like we’re always creating chances, having shots, crosses, forward runs so it is exciting to play in.
The Scottish international feels he is finally getting back to his best after ten months out with a knee injury.
“It’s brilliant. The first half alone today there was a lot of space – trying to create chances for the likes of Mitro and Wilson. I’m just happy to be playing in such a good side. I feel like I need games, minutes to get that match fitness. I was out for a hell of a long time and it doesn’t come back in a few weeks. These games have helped me. I feel like I’m having an effect on games, I’m recovering quicker when I do things. It’s a nice feeling.”
Cairney revealed that Fulham tried to use Bournemouth’s defeat in yesterday’s early kick off as motivation and was pleased that the Whites came from behind to win for the first time this season.
“It was weird because as we were going out to warm up we saw Luton score the winner. It can go either way where you can think about it too much and don’t perform yourselves, but we tried to use it as motivation. We’ve been behind a few times this season and we haven’t really capitalised. So I think going today going behind twice and winning the game was big confidence boost for the team.”
Fulham captain Tom Cairney is loving playing for Marco Silva and says the side’s adventurous approach reminds him of the stylish football under Slavisa Jokanovic.
Where to start? When I contemplated penning some thoughts on the rearranged trip to Reading, I didn’t dare dream Fulham register a 7-0 win, their second of the season – something last achieved on the road more than a hundred years ago by the Liverpool side of 1895-1896. My personal 4-1 pre-match prediction seems tame now, but I felt it was pretty optimistic given Fulham’s recent form and I must admit to not feeling particularly positive about proceedings at half-time – even with the Whites 2-0 up.
Understandably, Marco Silva’s side looked like a team who hadn’t played for a while, lacking a cutting edge in the final third with a frustrating reluctance to pull the trigger. A couple of heavy crosses from good positions by Kenny Tete and poor decisions from Antonee Robinson on the left added to the sense of rustiness. The Royals were in a generous mood, however, putting Wilson’s first goal on a plate for the Welshman with a poor back pass. He needed no second invitation to accept the belated Christmas gift.
Wilson was Fulham’s constant threat in the first half. He appeared unstoppable down the right, finding himself in on goal on a couple of occasions before being felled by Tom Holmes after being threaded through by Tom Cairney. There was no doubting who was going to take the penalty and Aleksandar Mitrovic dispatched it emphatically into the bottom corner to make it 2-0 right on the stroke of half time. That scoreline was much more comfortable than it could have been. A disastrous bit of defending from Robinson provided Mamadi Camara with a chance to equalise but Marek Rodak made a magnificent save from the midfielder’s backheel. Had that crept into the corner, our evening might have been very different.
Andy Carroll rolled the back the years in the first half with a virtuoso performance leading the Reading line. His hold-up play was excellent and he’ll be gutted to have come away without goal after two sublime offside finishes in the space of a minute. The first was a brilliant bicycle kick in the bottom right corner, whilst the second saw him control a cross magnificently on his chest and looping volley into the right hand side of the net – although Rodak was motionless having spotted the flag going up.
I don’t know what words of wisdom Silva dispensed at half time but instantly we looked hungrier after the break. We found ourselves in promising positions but didn’t fashion a clear opening until Robinson’s cut back was met by Harry Wilson for a tap in, his second of the game on the hour mark. What followed was some of the best football I’ve seen Fulham play; something I’ve said a number of times already this season. We had the momentum and kept on pushing, with Cairney and Reed controlling the engine room expertly, Wilson and Kebano stretching the defence out wide, creating chances and winning corners, two of which resulted in goals, not an uncommon sight for the Fulham fans this season.
The first looked like a training ground routine re-adapted. Wilson swung the ball away from goal to Mitrovic, who I’m sure was meant to volley it goalward. Instead, a powerful header from the edge of the box was glanced in by Tete for his first goal in a Fulham shirt. That was four and, at this point, the away end sensed seven might be on the cards again. Next up was Kebano, who fully deserved a goal after another scintillating showing down the left. He was denied by a fine Southwood save a little earlier, but the Congolese winger wasn’t to be denied. Wilson supplied a simple cross after being played in by a brilliant bit of vision and execution from Mitrovic and Kebano couldn’t miss. A second set piece goal arrived when Wilson swung in another corner and a towering header from Tosin found the bottom corner. The Fulham faithful were in full voice again after a dispiriting December.
Six goals to the good, Silva decided to ring the changes. We could easily have left it there and secured a clean sheet – as Scott Parker had tried to do and failed here a couple of years ago when facing ten men. This Fulham side does things differently. It was refreshing to see Silva take the more adventurous route. Rodrigo Muniz is fast becoming a fan favourite and made the most of his cameo bursting away from Holmes in the blink of an eye only to be thwarted by another smart Southwood save. Mitrovic’s sprint to reach the rebound and secure a seventh typified his desire. That takes his tally for 24 this season and 77 in total for Fulham, which lifts him above the late, great Jimmy Conway to become Fulham’s thirteenth highest goalscorer of all-time.
After the disappointments at Reading, a miserable mauling under Felix Magath and the pain of that narrow play-off semi-final defeat, here was a magical night to savour for the travelling Fulham faithful. Reading look utterly rudderless and the less said about their attendance the better, although fair play to the diehards who were still there to see the last rites of their record home defeat. As the away end sung, ‘Manchester City, we’re coming for you!’
Tom Cairney was encouraged by the way Fulham battled back to claim a point against Bournemouth last night and urged his team-mates to not let their levels drop as the Whites head into the Christmas period.
The Fulham captain came off the bench to add creativity to the home midfielder and produced a peach of cross to provide the equaliser for Tosin Adarabioyo with just six minutes left. He felt Marco Silva’s men deserved a half time lead having watched an absorbing contest from the sidelines initially. Cairney told FFCTV last night:
“I think it was a proper game of football. Atmosphere, intensity, chances, tackles – everything you want in an entertaining game. Had a bit of drama, opportunities missed, goals we should have scored. It was entertaining for fans. I feel like when you were playing in a top of table clash, you need to score when you were on top. We needed to score first half, we deserved to score. They cleared it, last ditch tackles and we were so unfortunate to go in 0-0.”
The midfielder acknowledged the quality of the training ground that led to Dominic Solanke’s opener seconds after the interval.
“It was quite surreal actually. On one hand, you’ve got to give a bit of credit to Bournemouth because it was a great move and a great pass. From our point of view, it’s a little bit sloppy, it’s sleepy, not seeing the run. You have to give a bit of credit to them for the goal.”
Cairney was pleased to tilt the contest back towards Fulham with a high-energy cameo after replacing Jean-Michael Seri with twenty minutes to go and most of the league leaders chances came through the movement and vision of their number ten.
“I came on, 1-0 down, you come on the pitch you feel like you need to make an impact and make something something happen. They were getting deeper, just tried to get around the box, hopefully get a shot off and get a goal. I was hoping Kebano was going to score when I put him in, that would have been nice, but it was great for Tosin to get his first goal. The ball worked to the edge of the box on the right hand side, when you see Mitro and Tosin in the box you just need to feel it in there. It was a good ball and a great header.
He praised Fulham’s fans for creating such a red hot atmosphere and another memorable moment at the Hammersmith End.
“Oh, it was brilliant. The atmosphere was the best it has been this season by far – and that’s without a stand. Imagine if it was full? It would have been an absolute joke. It is an amazing feeling, kicking to that end. It feels like they are sucking the ball into the goal when it is like that. It was a good moment.”
Cairney felt Fulham could have nicked it in the closing stages, but he believes there were plenty of positives to take from a dominant display.
“I feel like if the game went on five minutes longer we could have scored another. They were getting deeper and deeper and we were piling the pressure on. I think overall you’ve got to be happy with the performance, the intensity and possession we had. Obviously, it’s three draws in a row, which obviously we don’t want, but you’re top of the league, you can’t be too greedy. Nothing’s won and lost in December. We keep going.”
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.”
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.