As the Premier League celebrates its 25th anniversary, the gulf between the top tier and the lower branches of English football can appear a chasm – but the goalkeeping union showed that class still transcends the pound signs.
Had Manchester United shot-stopper David De Gea made THAT triple save at Northampton then the likelihood is it would be streamed on loop in Piccadilly Gardens. Heck it might even have made it to the screens of New York’s Times Square.
But it wasn’t De Gea. It was Fleetwood Town’s shot-stopper Alex Cairns.
In a week that has seen the Premier League pat itself on the back once again, it was a League One keeper who stole the show at the highly un-glamorous venue of Sixfields in Northampton.
Those watching with grassy bums from the hill behind the goal could not even see Cairns show the reflexes of a cat to thwart Aaron Pierre twice and Billy Waters all in the blink of an eye from close range.
The gasps from the crowd and – something worth noting– the applause of the home faithful for the opposition keeper would have notified them that something special had just gone on.
The skill was unbelievable and the gulf between the league’s narrowed momentarily as De Gea reached out to his fellow keeper.
The footage was swiftly distributed on social media by Fleetwood. Ten million-plus views later and Cairns, a man many an avid Sky-watching sofa-dweller may never have heard of, had put himself and Town on the map once again.
Everyone in League One knows all about the keeper’s meteoric rise from the shadows. Cairns was second-choice at Town and hadn’t started a League game until last October but was a man on a mission.
Patience is a virtue and Cairns has it in abundance, moulding his skills while awaiting his chance.
Having kept 19 clean sheets last season, Cairns has been acknowledged by the keeper hailed the best in the world right now.
As the Premier League looks to isolate itself once again with its anniversary celebrations, Spain stopper De Gea’s praise of Cairns gives out a message that keepers are not so different whatever their level.
Only four keepers have kept more clean sheets in the Premier League than De Gea, so when he calls Cairns’ feat “the best save” people understandably listen.
That simple act of recognition is a lesson to all top-flight snobs that there is life outside the Premier League, and the world below isn’t only there to make or break your weekend accumulator.
The attention of the football world won’t be focused on Highbury and Fleetwood’s far-from-glamorous clash with Wimbledon this weekend, but hopefully the positive publicity earned by Cairns will encourage people up and down the country to switch off the box and taste some real football played by their local team.
Cairns have shown that class is everywhere. The beautiful game can still be aesthetically pleasing at any level.