Stand-in skipper Antoni Sarcevic has more than proved himself, says boss Graham Alexander, after reaching the milestone of 100 appearances for Fleetwood Town.
Sarcevic, whose most famous moment in a Fleetwood shirt came when he scored the winner in the 2014 League Two play-off final, led the side out to their 2-0 defeat at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
It wasn’t the way he would have wanted to mark his Fleetwood century – but Alexander insists there’s plenty more to come from the 23-year-old.
He said: “Sarce has been superb for us – everything we hoped and expected when be brought him in.
“He delivered loads of goals in his first season, learned a lot about League One last season and I think we’ve got a much better player on our hands than we’ve ever had in Sarce.
“I think when we get beaten it hurts him personally and that’s what we want.
“He’s been a fantastic signing for this club, and he’s a young player who wants to improve on his career and in his game.
“We feel we’ve more than one of them.
“It’s a good accolade for him to get his hundred. He’ll have been hurting from the defeat, but it’s a great milestone and we hope he goes on to play many more.”
Sarcevic’s role as a leader on the field makes him key in keeping up morale in Alexander’s inexperienced side.
The Fleetwood manager is hoping his side will learn from Saturday’s defeat at the Keepmoat, not least in the way they respond to going a goal behind.
He knows composure in such circumstances is something which cannot be taught.
“I think it will just come from experience,” said Alexander.
“When you’ve been there 50, 100 times and you know with 70 minutes to go there’s no panic.
That’s the nature of the game.
“It’s something we hope will come and the players will learn from each experience.
“They’ve seen the highlights and rewards of playing well, scoring goals and winning games.
“Saturday was a kick in the teeth but we will bounce back.”
Alexander knows that with a number of his squad having just a handful of Football League games under their belts, there will be ups and downs this term.
But he believes there’s huge potential in his side.
“It doesn’t make us accept losing,” said Alexander.
“We don’t accept negative results.
“But if we play on the front foot like we did for a lot of the game, improve a few aspects we’ll have a good season.
“There will be bloody noses along the way. Saturday was one of those times.
“The players will think about Saturday, think how they can improve and I’m sure they will.”
Alexander is likely to have to call on yet more unproven talent this weekend, when Rochdale visit Highbury.
With Conor McLaughlin on international duty, he has a choice between Max Cartwright, Eggert Jonsson and new boy Victor Nirennold at centre-half.
Of that trio only Jonsson has previous Football League experience, mostly as a central midfielder.
Former Stade Rennais youngster Nirrenold made the bench last weekend but is awaiting his debut.
And Alexander made it clear it’s up to the 24-year-old to stake his case for a start.
He said: “It’s down to Victor. All the players have the opportunity to be involved. It’s whether they take that opportunity.
“We’ve seen enough of him in training and in a couple of games to have the confidence to put him on the bench.
“It’s down to Victor whether he wants to prove himself a better choice than the other players.”