Return not guaranteed for McLaughlin

Conor McLaughlin
Conor McLaughlin

International ace Conor McLaughlin isn’t guaranteed to walk back into the Fleetwood side to face Bradford City this afternoon.

McLaughlin missed last weekend’s draw with Rochdale as he represented Northern Ireland in their Euro 2016 qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Hungary.

And after two gruelling games, which left Michael O’Neill’s side on the brink of qualification, Alexander is giving the 24-year-old as long as possible to prove he’s recovered to face the Sky Blues.

“Conor played a game a two-thirds, he’s in great spirits because of what’s happened and how close they are to the Euros,” said Alexander.

“But he’s got to get his mind back on what he’s paid to do and that’s to play for us.

“We’ve got to make sure he’s physically right.

“It was a tough game for him on Monday and he only flew back Tuesday.

“We’ll see how he is before we make our minds up on whether he comes straight back in.”

The Fleetwood Town defender was at the heart of the action at Windsor Park on Monday night - his face splashed across national sports pages and websites in the celebrations which followed Kyle Lafferty’s equaliser.

It was a proud moment for Alexander - who believes there’s better to come from his versatile full-back.

“We saw it, it made us all smile,” said the Town boss.

“It’s brilliant for us, not just for Conor, for everybody.

“You have to be proud of that, to see your player involved in that kind of game.

“I saw his performance and he’s so comfortable at that level.

“But we won’t let him rest on his laurels.

“There’s parts of his game I think he still has to improve and we’ll make sure he will.”

McLaughlin was signed by Micky Mellon following Fleetwood’s promotion from the Conference.

He was brought in as cover for then first choice Shaun Beeley - taking nearly two-years to nail down a starting place.

Alexander believes the change in his fortunes and those of keeper Chris Maxwell are an incentive for those coming through the club’s development ranks.

“We’re looking at our squad and talk about young players - the young, young ones,” he said.

“But there’s still players like Conor McLaughlin and Chris Maxwell who two years ago were in the same position.

“They are now, I think, two of the better players in this division, never mind our club.

“They, two-years-ago, had no experience and little first team exposure.

“Now one is an international and the other is knocking on the door of that scene.

“That for me is the perfect example to these players.

“Whether they listen to us or not they can see that with their own eyes, see that it’s real.”