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For Tom Cairney, winning the Sky Bet Championship with Fulham this season would be “a dream” while he has backed the west London club to succeed in the top flight, if they can survive the first season.
Marco Silva guided the Cottagers back into the Premier League at the first time of asking, and with four matches to spare, following a 3-0 win over Preston on Tuesday.
The fans poured on to the Craven Cottage pitch to celebrate before the players returned to the field to parade with banners celebrating their promotion.
And Cairney, who footed the bill for the ensuing night out, admitted it was an amazing experience.
“It was good to celebrate. I mean if you don’t celebrate those moments that come around once in a blue moon then there’s no point doing this job, so it was great to celebrate together,” he told the PA news agency.
Since Cairney signed for Fulham for a reported £3million in 2015, the club have been promoted three times, but the first two were through the play-offs and the 31-year-old insisted this time felt different.
“It does yeah, I think it does feel different. It feels less chaotic, I mean the play-offs is just pure chaos,” the midfielder said.
“But now I think the club and the staff and everyone have a long time to plan for next season, now they know where they’re going to be, and that should hold us in good stead.”
Fulham have yet to secure the Championship title, although with a nine-point advantage and significant goal difference over second-placed Bournemouth ahead of the meeting between the two sides on Saturday it is within reach.
For Cairney, who has yet to win a major title, the silverware would mean a lot.
He said: “To win a league in your career, there’s not many that do it. There’s a lot of footballers in the world and not many that get promoted so it’d be a dream.”
When asked about the club’s chances in the top flight next season, he said: “When I first joined we didn’t have a successful campaign. We’d just survived relegation, but I think on from that we were a very strong Championship team and played great football since then.
“But then we haven’t managed to stay up since, (only for) one season. But I really do feel like if this club stays up one season then they’ll be up for a long long time. It’s just doing that for one season so hopefully that’s next year.”
Aleksandar Mitrovic has become the first man in almost 30 years to score 40 goals in an English league season, and has found the net in 26 of his 40 appearances this season, including three hat-tricks.
However, despite his prolific form, Cairney believes the goalscorer has not got the recognition he deserves.
“You feel like you’re always going to score because he’s playing, and if there is a chance and it falls to him, you really do back him to hit the back of the net,” he said when asked about the Serbian forward.
“It’s a crazy season, it’s a mental season.
“I actually don’t think he’s getting the plaudits he deserves for actually getting 40 goals. Forty goals in a league season that hasn’t even finished yet, it’s crazy.
“He’s going to be the Championship player of the year, easily, and I really don’t think his record is going to be beaten for a long time.”
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