Alexander the Great

by Neil Sherwin

Saturday’s Npower Championship game between Burnley and Swansea City saw Graham Alexander make his 1000th senior appearance as he heads ever nearer to his 40th birthday. The midfielder entered the fray in the 87th minute as a replacement for Chris Eagles and was met by a standing ovation from both sets of supporters.

The 2-1 win over the flying Welsh side was a fitting result to a monumental day, and it could have been even better had Alexander’s late strike not been tipped onto the crossbar by Swansea keeper Dorus De Vries the crossbar.

“The response I got from the supporters when I came on at the end of the game was amazing, and from my team mates and staff as well; it will live with me for a long time,” he said.

“It was a special moment and my family being here as well, that was great for me.”

Tond Ford, who played alongside Alexander at Scunthorpe in the 90s, is the only other outfield player to have made over 1000 professional appearances and he had nothing but good things to say about his former team mate.

“I knew he’d be a long time in the game because of his attitude,” said the 51 year old who retired in 2002 following 1,083 professional games. 

“He just wanted to play every Saturday and he’s not changed one bit. He loves training and he always has to be a winner – whether it’s playing five-a-side on Monday morning or a pre-season run. He has to be a winner and has to be at the front.”

Capped more than 40 times by Scotland at international level, Alexander’s career stretches all the way back to 6 December 1988 when he lined out for Scunthorpe United in a Sherpa Van Trophy game against Halifax Town. Following over 200 games for the Irons he headed for Kenilworth Road to join Luton Town at a cost of £100,000. In 1999, both Burnley and Preston North End battled it our for his signature before he opted for the latter. Eight great years followed where Alexander established himself as club captain while also earning a reputation as a dead ball expert. Indeed, he is one of the most reliable penalty takers the game has seen in recent times.

A surprise move to Burnley came about in 2007 and the following year he was a key member of the side that won promotion to the Premier League for the first time. Alexander played in all 61 of the club’s league and cup competitions, a remarkable achievement for a 37 year old. 

It’s a pity that Alexander only graced the Premier League for one season in 2009/10, but he performed well despite his advancing years and picked up the club’s Player of the Year award. He also contributed his fair share of goals, most of which came from the penalty spot, but was unable to prevent the club from making an instant return to the second tier of English football.

Now he remains an important part of Eddie Howe’s first team squad which still harbours promotion ambitions going into the last few weeks of the season.

“Hopefully it’s not the end of the story,” he said. “We’re chasing the play-offs and still have that as the target.

“We want to achieve something. We knew how special it was two years ago to do it, and that’s still the goal for everyone in that changing room to do it this season as well.”

There is talk of Alexander continuing on next year, and if the Clarets did make a return to the promised land then no doubt he would fancy one last crack at the big time.

Alexander’s career in numbers:

Scunthorpe United – 202 apps

Luton Town – 183 apps

Preston North End – 400 apps

Burnley – 174 apps

Scotland – 41 apps

2 Responses

  1. Jamie Smith says:

    Good article, this.

    But I think there’s a growing acceptance that if Grezza wants to play on, he’ll have to move on in the summer. Especially if we were to go up.

    Probably have to drop to League One as well, it’s a while since he started for us.

  2. Martin says:

    Its a shame that Alexander only won international honours later in his career. He made his debut for Scotland at the age of 30/31 during the Bert Vogts days. Its a pity he didn’t get picked up a little bit earlier as he would have made it into the SFA Hall of Fame. That would have been fitting for a player of his longevity.

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