Signings of the Season: Cairney and Sessegnon

5th July 2017

With the club’s two most lucrative talents signing new deals in a matter of days last week, Tom Featherstone gives his thoughts as to why Cairney and Sessegnon’s new contracts will almost certainly be Fulham’s best two pieces of business this window.

It’s almost certain that the contract extensions of both Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are set to be the two most pleasing signings of the window for Fulham. Locking TC down until 2021 and Sess until 2020 is a huge statement of intent not just from Slavisa’s perspective now, but also for the club moving forwards.

Getting the business done early in the window shuts down any rumours linking the two players away from the club,  and thus has huge significance for both the fans and to the other players, who now know that the players around them are being kept in place for another tilt at the Championship title.

The pair were both involved in a number of significant moments throughout the course of last season, in particular during the game at St. James Park, and personally, I am very impressed with the backbone that Slaviša has built into the very central ethos of Fulham, creating a strong core which can be added to in particularly necessary areas.  

Cairney’s performances were always going to attract a lot of interested parties, but it was newly promoted Newcastle United who showed the most intent – with figures around £20million being touted for the Scotland international. Whilst in the past we’ve been known to sell when these offers come in, it’s been refreshing to see the club stick with Slaviša on this matter and hold on to their star man.

Sessegnon, being such a young English talent, was attracting more of the big-hitters, but equally refreshing has been the ability to show him how his development would be better at his boyhood club, and make sure that he is committed to the cause. His level-headedness in being able to understand the benefits is one thing, but the praise here should be going to the management structures for steering the youngster in the right direction. 

Even more impressive, perhaps, is being able to keep the two players’ eyes on the prize at Fulham. The club would be contending not only with large wage increases should they have moved away from the Cottage, but also the major offer of an ‘easy way’ into the Premier League. To see both players turn down this opportunity clearly shows the intent from the management and belief that the players have in the club and the system. 

Following By Example

Whilst the importance of keeping hold of your key players is something with countless examples across the footballing world, the best example in the Championship is reasonably close to home, in this season’s runners-up, Brighton. In 2015-16, the Seagulls experienced the same play-off heartache as Fulham, when they lost to Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-finals. Over the summer, the club were swamped with bids for their key men, but owner Tony Bloom and manager Chris Hughton stuck to their guns, refused to sell, and drilled the belief into their squad that this was their year to become heroes.

Over the summer, the club were swamped with bids for their key men, but owner Tony Bloom and manager Chris Hughton stuck to their guns, refused to sell, and drilled the belief into their squad that this was their year to become heroes.

Arguably, Brighton were the best team in the league last year, and should very much have won the title, but their fans, who’ll be going to the Premier League for the first time ever, won’t mind that runners-up berth one bit. Their model appeared to bring the whole club together, both on and off the pitch, where the players interacted with fans throughout the season and the bond between players was shown to be crucial. Just look at the celebrations in the away end when their second goal was scored at the Cottage! We can only hope that these two signings are the beginning of a similar bond between players at Fulham, bringing the squad together and following the Brighton model.

Their model appeared to bring the whole club together, both on and off the pitch, where the players interacted with fans throughout the season and the bond between players was shown to be crucial. Just look at the celebrations in the away end when the second goal was scored at the Cottage! We can only hope that these two signings are the beginning of a similar bond between players at Fulham, bringing the squad together and following the Brighton model.

The length of the deals is also important. With Ryan and Tom locked in until at least 2019 and 2021 respectively, there is plenty of time for Slaviša to plan for the future, building his squad around the men who he feels will be the cornerstones of a successful campaign to get Fulham into the Premier League and to keep them there. By bringing through a youth contingent, and building them into a tight-knit squad, Slaviša is setting up the club for an extended period of success later down the line.

Jokanović has also made a decision which makes financial sense. When Fulham sold McCormack last summer, it was at the nadir of his Championship career, and the £12 million that we got for the Scotsman seems like unbelievable value in the cold light of hindsight. In complete contrast, Sessegnon is simply starting his ascent. Whilst there was money on the table now, if Sessegnon continues to improve and develop, that value will only continue to increase. 

Who knows how much Sess’ value will have increased in one year, never mind in two? And whilst there was talk of cashing in now, the lucrative bonus of adding further value to a player whilst still gaining from his on-pitch ability is something which has to be in Slaviša’s mind.

Signings Of The Summer?

To ask the question again, are the contract extensions of both Cairney and Sessegnon set to be the signings of the window? Well, in this writer’s opinion, yes. These two deals represent some of the best business the club has done in a long time. We have a midfield wizard and a teenage prodigy, who both clearly believe in the ambition and ability of the manager and the club as a whole.

In fact, there appears to be very little to be negative about in relation to Fulham at the moment transfer-wise, aside from the fact that there is perhaps just one more piece of the puzzle now missing – a top-quality goal scorer. If that can be achieved in good time, and Slaviša has enough pre-season to bed his signing in, there’s no reason that Fulham can’t be pushing for an automatic spot this season. 

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