Alex Cairns jetted back from Fleetwood Town’s pre-season trip to Hungary after fulfilling a lifelong ambition to secure a number one shirt – and now he wants to show why he deserves it.
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Cairns, 25, has secured the only squad number so far confirmed for the 2018/19 season.
And with the shot-stopper yet to concede a goal in his three pre-season games, it is easy to see why he has been given the shirt by new boss Joey Barton.
Cairns is starting his third season at Town, having replaced Chris Neal as number one during the 2016/17 season.
Cairns briefly lost his place last season but Neal has now departed for Salford City and Cairns says he is ready to become a leader.
He said: “Over the last couple of seasons I have found out a lot about what the club is about.
“I had a chat with the new manager and I appreciated what he wants from me as a person and a player. I feel like I am ready to become a leader.
“I’m not saying I’ve not been a leader in the last two seasons – a lot of my performances showed I am one – but now it is more about saying to the back four: ‘This is how we are doing it’.
“It is little things like organising the walls or how we set up at corners. I can take on board what the staff want and put it (into practice) on the pitch away or at home. That is massive for me to become a leader and show why I am number one.”
Cairns praised Barton’s management style and is on a high with the season less than three weeks away.
He added: “A few players have been able to show their ability, relax and have their own opinions, which is always good.
“Goalkeepers see the game a little differently to other players and I’ve had chats with the manager about what we both think.
“I’ve got a little bit more of a voice and I think that comes with the number one shirt. I’ve got to have a voice if I want to keep that shirt. I have got to be a voice behind the lads.
“I absolutely loved Hungary and the week has gone so quick because everyone has enjoyed themselves. They put the work in and got the rewards.
“We have bought into the new structure and it’s really exciting times for the whole of Fleetwood.”
Town will face Rochdale and Bury in their Checkatrade Trophy group. The under-21 side to complete northern group B will be confirmed on Wednesday.