Four ex-Elland Road favourites send message to Alex Cairns following Leeds United return

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Leeds United confirmed the return of their former academy goalkeeper on Monday.

A number of former Leeds United fan favourites have sent their best wishes to Alex Cairns, following confirmation of his return to Elland Road earlier this week.

Experienced goalkeeper Cairns signed a two-year deal with Leeds on Monday, effectively replacing Poland-bound Kristoffer Klaesson as third-choice shot-stopper. Salford City received a nominal fee for the 31-year-old, whose return to West Yorkshire will help the club fulfil their EFL homegrown player quota.

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Doncaster-born Cairns rose through the academy ranks at Leeds but made just one appearance for the club before leaving in 2015. As back-up goalkeeper for several years, he worked alongside the first-team squad and his return to West Yorkshire has caught the eye of some former Whites stars.

Leeds confirmed the arrival of Cairns on their official Instagram account earlier this week, writing: “LUFC is pleased to announce the signing of @alexcairns33, who rejoins the club from Salford City in a permanent deal.”

Among the many comments was fellow Leeds academy graduate, now at West Brom, Alex Mowatt, who joked ‘nice Alan, hair looks class”. Ross McCormack was also quick to make a joke, writing ‘tell you what, fantastic from the banter master’. 

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Robert Snodgrass was slightly less jovial with his comment, writing ‘well done big fella’, while Charlie Taylor wrote ‘Congrats Al’.

Cairns only made one appearance for Leeds during his first stint and will not return as a regular starter, but the 31-year-old’s vast experience will prove valuable in keeping first-choice Illan Meslier on his toes. The former Whites academy prospect has racked up more than 350 senior appearances since leaving West Yorkshire in 2015 and even knocked his former side out of the Carabao Cup with Salford City last season.

Sharing a message to supporters on his official Twitter account, Cairns said: "Delighted to join the club that taught me my craft and a club I have much affection for. For years I’ve looked on and seen the club make unbelievable strides and can’t wait to be apart [sic] of that. Now to get stuck in with the work and to help in whatever means necessary.”

The arrival of Cairns will also help Leeds meet the EFL’s homegrown player quota, with clubs required to have at least one ‘club developed player’ and seven ‘home grown players’ in their 25-man squad - only players above the age of 21 can be named in said list. Clubs must also have one ‘club developed player’ in each matchday squad, which can be one of Cairns, Sam Byram or any under-21 player who has been with Leeds for at least three years.

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The departures of Jamie Shackleton and Charlie Cresswell reduced the homegrown cohort at Leeds significantly, with both opting to move away in search of more regular football. Shackleton turned down offers of a contract extension to join fellow Championship side Sheffield United, while Cresswell joined French outfit Toulouse in a deal worth £3.8m.