Milestone end to Fleetwood keeper Alex Cairns' amazing year
His is one of the first names on the teamsheet these days, but a year ago Fleetwood keeper Alex Cairns had only two substitute appearances to his name in the Football League.
This weekend the Town number one celebrates a year between the sticks against familiar opposition – his home town club Doncaster.
Five years after his league debut off the bench in Leeds’ 5-0 defeat by Blackpool in 2011, the stopper made his first-ever league start for Town in the 2-1 win over Chesterfield at Highbury on November 19 last year – a call Uwe Rosler made after Cairns impressed off the bench in the 1-0 win at the Spireites the previous month.
That Highbury win was the start of Town’s epic 18-game unbeaten run that propelled them up into the automatic promotion race and saw Cairns usurp Chris Neal as first choice.
The 24-year-old’s rise to prominence reportedly attracted interest from Premier League club West Ham United, and he even gained high praise from Manchester United keeper David de Gea for his triple save at Northampton in August.
And Fleetwood head coach Rosler hailed Cairns for not resting on his laurels and continuing to learn as he prepares to cap a whirlwind year by making his 50th league appearance for Fleetwood against Doncaster on Saturday.
Rosler said: “Alex deserves every bit of praise he has got because he was phenomenal going from never starting to playing, all those clean sheets and the way he performed.
“Everyone knows how I feel about Alex. He has great potential.
“He has already shown great stability. In goalkeeping terms he is still a baby – he is 24 and for me that is very young for a keeper.
“He is short on experience but the way he is learning, never dropping his standards in training and always wanting to get better is fantastic.”
Though professionally it is a momentous month for Cairns, November also holds personal heartache for the shot-stopper.
His 16-year-old brother Blake was one of five teenagers killed in a two-car collision in Doncaster three years ago this week.
Cairns took to social media to pay tribute to his brother this week.
He tweeted: “Three years ago today I lost one of my best friends and our family lost a crucial part of us.
“Every day we think of you and every day we wish we could see you just one more time.
“We love you baby bro and hope we’re all making you smile and proud.”