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  • By Yann Tear at Craven Cottage

Silva hopeful long break has helped returning Cairney finally overcome knee injury

Wednesday night's 2-0 home win over Cardiff City was good news for Fulham fans and boss Marco Silva. Even better was the fact it featured a first appearance - and a goal - from the man who has done most to make them tick in recent seasons.

Skipper Tom Cairney has been badly missed since playing his last game 10 months ago - a draw at Newcastle in December 2020.

He had tried to play through the pain of a knee injury with injections but when it became clear that he was still suffering in pre-season - having missed the entire second half of the last campaign - a long rest was needed.

It has been "a dark and lonely place at times," as he stated in his programme notes, but the frustrating wait to get back into action ended when he came on at half time for an injured Harrison Reed and bagged a goal within 12 minutes to set the Whites on their way to three points.

"It was good to see an important player like Tom come back and help us with the first goal," Silva said.

"For him as well. I think he deserves it after the last months he has had - it's been so tough. It was very important for him to come back and help the team in that moment when we needed it.

"You can imagine how he feels. You see it in how he celebrated the goal - his feelings in that moment. Now if he's not the happiest, he's one of the happiest in our dressing room."

Silva opted for Cairney rather than Josh Onomah as a half-time sub because, he said: "At that moment I felt we needed a player with more calm to give more creativity for us in that position and it was good to see that he did that."

Speaking of the Scot's battle to resume playing and road to recovery, the Fulham boss said: "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."

Reed meanwhile, has a calf strain, but it is not thought to be too serious.

As for the game itself, Fulham had to be as patient as their captain. They failed to cash in when on top before the break and needed a scorcher from Cairney to finally unlock the Bluebirds' defence.

"Of course, if we'd scored early in the game when we had many chances, the game can be different," Silva said. "But it was important that if we didn't score, like we normally do at home, that we keep being patient and keep doing our game.

"I told them at half time that we don't start to rush our decisions and that we had to keep the right mindset and know when to put speed into our game and move the ball quickly, but keep our positions as well.

"But the first goal is always important because after that the game can be more open and the space is there to exploit.

"We deserved the three points."


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