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Scout and About: Episode 4 - Fulham's enigmatic midfielder Tom Cairney

In this week’s Scout and About, Roker Report’s chief scout looks at how David Moyes might be able to inject more ‘Britishness’ into the Sunderland midfield this summer.

Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

In the midst of David Moyes’ justification for dropping Didier Ndong for the Burnley game last Saturday, a British central midfield player could well be at the top of his shopping list this summer.

A Brexit-themed midfield pairing of Darron Gibson and Jack Rodwell is not an inspiring prospect in the slightest. A front two of Nigel Farage and Nick Griffin even less so. Add that to the fact that there’ll be no one on the left-wing, and you’ve got a pretty toothless football team.

As ridiculous as some of David Moyes’ post-match comments have been this season, it is absolutely paramount that the midfield is revamped this summer. While it’s not mathematically certain we’re finally going to succumb to the drop, Michelle McManus has just about finished her vocal warm-ups and has plugged her microphone in. In order to bounce straight back – which will be an arduous task in one of the most competitive leagues on the planet – acquiring the services of a player who has proven himself to be one of the very best in the league would certainly put the team in a strong position.

Under the microscope this week? Fulham’s Tom Cairney.

Over the past two seasons, since his £3m move from Blackburn, Tom Cairney has been indispensable to a Fulham side in a state of transition. His consistency since his arrival has allowed The Cottagers to steadily improve around him, and with the season’s home straight on the horizon, they find themselves in with a shout of a play-off place that very few fancied them for.

His form this season in particular has been outstanding. Cairney has appeared in all but one of Fulham’s Championship fixtures, starting 36 out of 37 league games. He has weighed in with nine goals and ten assists, pulling the strings from a midfield that he commands with an impressive balance and composure.

Although he’s most comfortable in the centre of the park, Cairney is also adept at playing on the right - a position he was used in regularly when at Blackburn. When asked to play wide right, Cairney often likes to cut inside onto his favoured left foot which is capable of scoring some spectacular goals.

In his time at Fulham, Cairney has proven himself capable of playing in both a deep-lying midfield role - always appearing comfortable on the ball and looking to start attacks with his vision and passing ability - as well as in a more advanced role, where he has regularly shown a knack of arriving late in the opponent’s area with an unerring composure in front of goal.

After a stellar season thus far, Cairney is now looked at alongside the likes of Anthony Knockaert, Aaron Mooy and Fernando Forestieri as one of the best players in the Championship, and his performances have led to him making his international debut for Scotland this week. Considering his development over the past two to three seasons, Gordon Strachan will surely see him as a key figure in his country’s bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup for the remainder of their campaign, which will further aid his development.

Bristol City v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

If you believe The Chronicle, Fulham quoted Newcastle a hefty £20m price-tag upon declaration of their interest in January. However, it would be hard to imagine the south-Londoners turning down an eight-figure fee in the summer especially if they aren’t promoted to the Premier League. Cairney’s goals, assists and all-round consistency will have Premier League clubs - as well as the more muscle-bound Championship clubs - coveting his signature this summer, and Fulham may be pressed into selling one of their prize assets.

Last summer, Championship sides flexed their muscles and held their own when up against Premier League clubs, spending big money on the likes of Matt Ritchie, Jonathan Kodjia and more recently Scott Hogan. Cairney is yet to have a sustained crack at the Premier League so may well opt for a move to the big time in the summer, but on the other hand, if a ‘big’ Championship club comes in with an attractive offer, don’t be surprised to see him plying his trade there again next season, either. Perhaps Sunderland could be a potential destination for the impressive Scotsman - regardless of the division in which we find ourselves.