Alex Cairns is Fleetwood Town’s number one again and says his season of highs and lows has made him grow as a person.
Keeper Cairns was a clean sheet machine in Town’s promotion chase last term, after usurping Chris Neal.
He started this season as first choice and a sublime triple save in the 1-0 win at Northampton earned him praise from Manchester Unite’s David De Gea.
But as Town and Cairns’ form went into a downward spiral, the Christmas defeat by Gillingham saw him lose his place to Neal.
That change saw a mini- revival but Town soon slumped and one of Uwe Rosler’s last acts as Town boss be to restore Cairns to the starting line-up for the 2-1 defeat to Shrewsbury last month.
John Sheridan has stuck with Cairns for his first three games in charge, including Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Charlton, the keeper’s first clean sheet in the league since facing Blackpool in November.
Heading into tonight’s crunch clash away to fellow strugglers Rochdale, Cairns said: “I think I’ve definitely grown as a person.
“I was fortunate last year – we had such a good run. This year I have had to become a man quicker than I have ever had to before.
“I’ve had to man-up and deal with things that I never thought I’d have to.
“It has been big for me and I’m looking forward to becoming a better player for it.
“Before I came to Fleetwood, I hadn’t had a run of games in the team and I’ve had to realise quickly that not everything is brilliant and merry. You have to dig in and work hard, and we are doing that right now.
“Luckily this manager has put me in and I’m going to do my best for him. Being out of the team did not change my attitude towards the game.
“I’ve trained my hardest and worked hard to get back in. I know my standards. My form has not been as good as it was but it is a team game – we were all not good enough.
“Unfortunately I was the one who got dropped. Chris did really well when he came in. I just had to do my best to try to get in the team.”
As for his time out of the side, Cairns said: “I spent a lot more time with the family. I’m from Doncaster, so I managed to get home a little bit more.
“I used that time to work harder on the training pitch. I look at every game – things I did well, things I can improve – and hopefully I can kick on.
“Every week is different and every one of us is doing our best to improve. Chris has been brilliant with me. We are good friends.”