Fulham will have arrived back in the Championship confident of challenging for promotion to the Premier League straight away.
Losing to Barnsley on the opening day of the 2019/20 campaign, therefore, will have struck a bit of a blow to that confidence and Scott Parker was tasked with engineering an impressive bounceback – or the pressure could really start to mount.
And that is what he did on Saturday, guiding his side to a 2-0 victory over Blackburn, putting in the sort of assured performance you would expect of such a star-studded line-up.
Anthony Knockaert made his full debut and became an instant hit with the home fans, Harry Arter was impressive during his first outing for the Whites whilst even Bobby Reid impressed from the bench.
But one performance that caught the eye – not for the first time at Craven Cottage – was that of Tom Cairney.
Aided by the inclusion of Arter from the start, and having to concern himself with defensive duties far less, Cairney put in what was a quintesential performance for the 28-year-old.
Whilst Knockaert dazzled down the right-hand side and Aleksandar Mitrovic put in a typically bullish showing up-front, Cairney controlled everything with ease, a calming presence in what could be a pretty manic environment this season.
His goal was outstanding. That was the first thing that was so typically-Tom about this performance. Collecting the ball 25-yards out following some good work from Arter, Cairney took two touches before whipping a delicious shot passed the despaiting Christian Walton and into the net.
That was, of course, the headline act of this outing. But there was plenty more to it.
A pass accuracy of 91% showed that he has retained that coolness in possession that was so central to their 2018 promotion whilst a forward pass accuracy of just under 80% emphasised his ability to link defence with attack and bring the best out what is a scarily proven front-line.
Having only two shots, including the spectacular one from which he scored, showed his intelligence too. Cairney is not about to start panicking and forcing the issue. So often he makes the right decision when in possession and that is something he did again against Rovers yet again.
And, whilst his defensive duties were diminished by Arter’s presence, they were not extinguished, making three interceptions as he continued to exert pressure on their opponents high up the field.
There will be many important players in this season for Fulham. Mitrovic will need to be firing home 20 goals or more, Knockaert will be expected to get double figures in both goals and assists whilst Arter will undoubtedly be an ever-present in front of a shaky defence.
But none of them can do what Cairney did on Saturday and having him continue to perform to that standard will take the Whites a long way to securing a Premier League return.Like what the FLW have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!