This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict‘ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney is making progress on his long-term knee injury despite not yet being able to join in with first-team sessions, according to Marco Silva who spoke to The Athletic’s Peter Rutzler during his pre-match press conference.
The Scottish international has been suffering from this recurring injury that has kept him out for a total of over nine months now, not featuring for the Cottagers since their away tie against Newcastle United way back in December.
Because of this, he hasn’t had a chance to stake his claim for a starting spot this term, with promotion back to the Premier League the prize on offer if they can regain their consistency and show why they were heavily fancied as title contenders at the start of the campaign.
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As club captain, his absence has been a big blow for him individually and for the club as a whole, although they have had a selection of very capable players to call upon in the middle of the park including new signing Nathaniel Chalobah, Jean Michael Seri, Josh Onomah and Harrison Reed available, even with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s loan departure to Napoli.
He may be the skipper of the club, but does Cairney get straight back into the starting lineup after returning from such a long-term injury? He may not be fit yet – but his progress will give Marco Silva a huge selection dilemma.
Ahead of the 30-year-old’s return, we have asked three of our writers at Football League World whether they think he will be a guaranteed starter at Craven Cottage.
Quiz: Have Fulham ever been involved in these 18 scenarios?
Tom Cairney is an excellent player at Championship level, whose experience and technical ability making him a player who The Cottagers have sorely missed.
He is someone who can create opportunities out of nowhere, with his vision and range of passing allowing him to split defences.
He is also a player who works tirelessly out of possession and has a desire to keep his team in control of the ball.
Fulham do have exciting midfield talents operating in his place, but for Marco Silva, having him back at his disposal can only be a good thing.
If you combine that with the fact that Fabio Carvalho is also nearing a return, then it sure is exciting for Fulham fans.
It’s a tough one to call really.
No player has a defying right to come in and play after being out for a while based purely on their name, but Cairney is a proven performer at this level.
He scored 8 goals the last time Fulham promotion from this level, and his game has matured which means he isn’t just a natural number 10 anymore.
Harry Wilson is a guaranteed starter, as is Fabio Carvalho, but Cairney could provide Bobby Reid and Josh Onomah with some real competition in midfield.
I think it will be a massive boost to have him back.
It could be hard for Cairney to immediately force his way back into the side once he is available again.
The midfielder will still need to get back to match fitness once he is available, and having not played since last December, he may not be completely match sharp when he returns to the side.
Given the importance of winning promotion back to the Premier League for Fulham this season, you wonder Marco Silva will be willing to take something of a risk on relying on Cairney, who will surely be rusty at first-team level after so long out.
Indeed, with the other options Fulham have in their attacking midfield, such as Harry Wilson and Fabio Carvahlo, it will be hard for Silva to justify dropping them with the form they are in, just to make room for Cairney in the starting XI.
As a result, it does feel like it could still be some time yet before we see Cairney playing regularly for Fulham again, which is a shame given both his ability, and the service he has given the club.