Defender Owen Cairns feels the time is right to step into League 2 football – and it didn’t take him long to sign on the dotted line with Elgin City.
The right-back was due to make his official debut on Sunday in City’s Borough Briggs centenary tournament final against Peterhead, but a calf strain ruled him out at the last minute.
His signing was confirmed just an hour before kick-off, but he did feature as a trialist in Saturday’s 2-0 win over his former club, Highland League winners Fraserburgh.
The 23-year-old former Ross County youth player spent the second half of last term at League 1 Peterhead, having moved to Fraserburgh from Turriff United in 2019 after gaining experience at Strathspey Thistle.
Elgin went on to win their pre-season tournament, which marked 100 years of the Moray club being based at Borough Briggs.
The Black and Whites have been impressive in pre-season, but having deeper defensive cover is a main goal of manager Gavin Price, who is thrilled to land the services of Cairns until 2024.
Elgin finished ninth in League 2 last term, having been more used to being in the promotion mix via the play-offs in recent years.
Ambition matched by the manager
Cairns cannot wait to get the season started, with boss Price determined to have a team back at the top end of the division.
He said: “I have played in the Highland League for seven or eight years, since I was a Strathspey Thistle at 16, and I always had aspirations to play in the SPFL.
“I got that opportunity on loan with Peterhead at the back end of last season, which was a brilliant experience.
“When I spoke to the manager and he put the offer on the table, it didn’t need to be anything more than a short discussion.
“His ambitions lined up with mine as a player. We are both extremely motivated as individuals, but we are motivated for the team.
SIGNING NEWS ✍️
We are delighted to announce young full back Owen Cairns has signed for the Club.
Owen who has impressed in the previous games as a trialist has put pen to paper on a 2 year deal which will see him here until Summer 2024.
Welcome to the Club Owen. pic.twitter.com/HjfRYtz6IJ
— Elgin City F.C. (@ElginCityFC) June 26, 2022
“We want to take Elgin to the best possible position this season and I was delighted to agree a two-year deal, which works out quite nicely with regards to that.
“Jim Weir (assistant manager) has come in and you can tell he has a real understanding of the game, while Gavin is clearly an excellent manager, so I’m looking forward to working with them.
“Everyone seems really positive as we aim to be a successful team this season.”
Elgin City are talking a good game
Elgin have not leaked a goal in pre-season, with a 5-0 win at Clach, a 6-0 rout of Lossiemouth and a 5-0 success at Keith adding to their clean sheets at the weekend.
Cairns believes communication is key and, having played as a trialist in recent weeks, he’s already seeing it come to fruition.
He said: “The boys already seem to have a good understanding of one another. It’s just a case of the back four gelling. When it comes to defending, consistency and understanding are key.
“It’s really beneficial to me. I was at left-back on Saturday and I had Darryl McHardy in my ear the whole time. I was also in the ear of Matheus Machado, who was left midfield, so it works well throughout the whole team.
“Although it’s not competitive football, we hadn’t conceded a goal before Keith over four matches against some really good sides. That’s testament to how well the boys have been gelling at the back and that’s nice to see.”
Defender Cairns has bags of energy
Cairns also believes his own game is an ideal match for the way Elgin are setting out to play this season.
He added: “I am right-footed, so predominantly I play right-back. I do transition over to the left though and I step into midfield when required.
“I’d say I’m energetic and I like to get on the ball. The team play really good football and that suits my style of play as well.”
FULL TIME at Kynoch Park
Keith 0 – 5 Elgin City
Next up Forres Mechanics for the Fraser Testimonial. pic.twitter.com/ksFFcJqJeX
— Elgin City F.C. (@ElginCityFC) June 28, 2022
And Cairns knows that every single point must be earned in the new League 2 season, with every side having plenty to play for, including avoiding the 10th-place relegation play-off position.
He said: “League 2 is extremely competitive and you seen that last season. Teams at the bottom half were often able to take on teams at the top end.
“Elgin’s squad is definitely going to be strong and we will a strong side home and away and that’s down to the standards set by the manager and Jim Weir.”
Elgin’s pre-season schedule continues on Friday when they go to Forres Mechanics for the testimonial of Can-Cans twins Lee and Graham Fraser.