Fulham's Tom Cairney says golden goal and promotion justifies loyalty

Fulham's Tom Cairney celebrates
Tom Cairney lifted the play-off trophy as Fulham captain

Tom Cairney says scoring the goal that took Fulham back to the Premier League justified his decision to reject overtures from the top-flight.

The Scotland midfielder, who captained the side to the 1-0 play-off final win over Aston Villa, was linked with West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion.

"I signed the contract extension for a reason," he told Sky Sports.

"I believe what we're doing here is special and what the gaffer's doing is special."

Nottingham-born Cairney, who began his career with Hull City, has been with Fulham since moving from Blackburn Rovers in 2015 and the latest deal he signed last summer ties him to the London club until 2021.

The 27-year-old, who has two Scotland caps, admits that "when I've been linked with a few clubs, people have been questioning what I've been doing".

But he believes that manager Slavisa Jokanovic is building a side capable of staying in the top flight.

"I've been saying for quite a while that we've been playing Premier League football in the Championship and I'm so happy that we are getting to play Premier League football in the Premier League now," he said.

"It is a dream come true. It feels incredible. It feels like an out-of-body feeling."

Fulham missed out on the play-off final last season when they lost their semi-final to Reading.

'I believe we'll really hold our own'

Fulham's Tom Cairney scores the winner against Aston Villa
Tom Cairney scored the only goal of the play-off final after 23 minutes

There appeared to be a hangover into the new campaign as the Cottagers made a poor start, but Cairney thinks the secret to success this time was "sticking to our guns".

"We didn't change one thing and, as players started to get a feel and we got our squad back together, we went on a 23-game unbeaten run," he pointed out.

"In my eyes, for the last two years, we've been the best team in the league.

"Even though we didn't win the league or win automatic promotion, we honestly at times blew teams away and it is was a joy to play in.

"The way we play, people try to man-mark us, but the way we rotate and how fluid it is, it is really hard.

"I'm not stupid. I know we won't be able to do that against all teams in the Premier League, but I believe we'll really hold our own and I believe we'll stay there for a long time."

As their Scotland colleagues headed on tour to Peru and Mexico, Cairney and fellow midfielder Kevin McDonald helped engineer victory over Aston Villa at Wembley.

Cairney slotted in from a Ryan Sessegnon pass after 23 minutes before Fulham survived last pressure following Denis Odoi's red card.

"I swear, when we were defending with 10 men for 20 minutes, I just had a feeling they wouldn't score," said the Fulham captain.

"They've got some great, experienced players, but I just thought it was our time - and it was."

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