WHAT will be music to the ears of Blackburn Rovers supporters will sound as a warning of intent to the rest of the Championship.
For Tom Cairney insists he has nowhere reached his capabilities.
That claim, said with some conviction, comes on the back of the 23-year-old’s outstanding debut campaign at Ewood Park.
Six goals and eight assists, aligned with some sparkling midfield displays, led Cairney to being named Rovers’ player of the year.
That he beat the reigning champion, Jordan Rhodes, to the prize was impressive enough given the free-scoring striker enjoyed another prolific season in front of goal.
But what made Cairney’s achievement all the more noteworthy was the fact that he played most of the campaign out of position on the right wing.
“I was pleased with my performances, I think I played well, in a different position too,” said Cairney.
“I’ve never played on the wing in my career before. I’ve played in the hole, I’ve played sitting, and I’ve played in the middle, but never on the wing.
“I still think there’s more to come. I’m only 23 and I think I’ve nowhere near reached my capabilities.
“I’ve just got to carry on working hard but I definitely think there’s more to come, especially next season.”
And it seems likely that Cairney will get the chance to operate in his natural position, in the centre of the park, in 2014-15.
The former Hull City starlet finished the 2013-14 campaign as the main man in the middle after Josh King returned to fitness and form.
And with Ben Marshall back from injury and ready to challenge King and Craig Conway for a place on the flanks, Cairney could start the new season there too.
“My most natural position is in the middle,” said Cairney, who completed a £600,000 permanent move from Hull in January after his initial six-month loan spell ended.
“That’s what I came in as and that’s what people have me down as.
“But I think I can play out wide.
“I’m still learning to play there but it’s something I got used to the more I done it and I did manage to get into some good positions.
“But wherever the manager puts me on the pitch, I’ll just try and do what I am good at.”
Rovers boss Gary Bowyer certainly knows what his star midfielder is good at.
Last week he hailed Cairney’s ability to keep possession and find holes in opposition defences with piercing and probing through passes as ‘Premiership quality’.
Anyone who witnessed Cairney’s displays in the Rovers’ FA Cup clashes with Manchester City in January – particularly the initial tie between the teams – would pay testament to that.
The former Scotland U21s international may have been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Fernandinho and Jesus Navas.
But he looked far from out of place in both of the third-round encounters – a 1-1 draw at Ewood and a harsh 5-0 replay reverse at the Etihad Stadium – as he proved he has the talent to operate on the big stage.
“It was a great experience playing Man City but there is still a bit of feeling in me that we should have turned them over at home, especially after they had a man sent off,” said Cairney.
“Once we fell 2-0 down at the Etihad it made for a long second half but it was still an amazing experience to walk out in that arena and play against those world stars.
“I’m sure I speak for all the boys when I say it would be a dream come true to be playing against the likes of them every week.
“That’s definitely something we’ve got to aim for.”
Despite a storming 12-game unbeaten run to end the campaign, Rovers missed out on the play-offs by two points last season.
But Cairney has no doubts that they have what it takes to finish in the top six this time around.
He said: “The gaffer has got a mainly young, British squad together and everyone works for each other.
“We’re exciting and we always look like we’re going to score goals. Maybe at times we were naive with our defending as a team and conceded some sloppy goals.
“But I think it will eventually all come together and we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”