Is Tom Cairney enjoying the best spell of his FFC career? Drew Heatley says it’s testament to his contentment off the field.
A disclaimer off the bat: I’ve become weirdly obsessed with Tom Cairney lately. He and his partner Abbie Richards announced they were having a baby shortly before my wife and I did the same – and his son Aubrey was born about a month before we had our son, Kasper. Since then I’ve been watching his Instagram posts intently. “What’s their relationship like?” “Is Aubrey rolling over/crawling yet?” “Oh look, we have the same pram”.
I think it’s safe to say we’re all a bit obsessed with TC on the pitch this season. It’s not surprising – I reckon he’s having his best spell in a white shirt.
Five goals and three assists in his opening 11 games show TC is as effective going forward as ever. He’s also among the top 10 Championship players for his defensive contributions, illustrating that he’s influencing games in almost every way. Man-of-the-match, goal-scoring performances against Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan in September saw him bag the PFA player of the month award, and he’s already taking his form into October with a double at the Madejski.
This all comes after he gave us a much-needed shot in the arm this summer by signing a new, long-term deal. We were down – literally and metaphorically – and our captain’s show of loyalty really boosted us. Sure, many might argue he signed because he didn’t get the Prem offer he wanted, but, like Mitrovic articulated when signed a new deal shortly after TC, you can’t understate the benefits of being happy in your job.
We moved house shortly before Kasper was born – it was bloody stressful. And we only moved a mile away. Work took a back seat for a while. For Tom, uprooting his family was, realistically, never an option. It would have probably impacted his performance on the pitch for his new club, sending him into a downward spiral that’d eventually see him branded a flop. Probably. He might have been born and raised in the east midlands, but the most significant events in his adult life have all occurred in London – and at Fulham. I think the club means more to him than we even realise.
And we’re reaping the benefits.
Couple TC’s contentment away from the pitch with an upturn in his physical wellbeing, and you’ve got a potent cocktail for success. Cairney has had a series of niggling injuries in recent seasons, often playing through the pain barrier when he was on the pitch. It’s a testament to his importance that we even highlight his absences – he’s played in 174 of a possible 210 competitive games since he arrived from Blackburn in 2015 – that’s 83%.
Of the 36 games Cairney’s missed (half of which came during the last two seasons), we’ve won just 12, a 33% win percentage. That rises to 40% in the near-200 games our captain has played. Whatever’s happened in the physio room at Motspur, it’s worked.
Tom Cairney’s cooking on all cylinders, on the pitch and off it. And when he gets into his groove, there Ain’t Nobody like him in this league.