Obituary Keith Alexander Great Imp & Inspiration
Thanks and RIP Keith – Obituary By Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
Dunholme`s famous son, Keith Alexander a legend in Lincolnshire to Grimsby and Lincoln fans alike was a man who made financial mountains from Football molehills. A true football man, magician and gentleman with an eye for talent in a game that offers few chances to overcome the odds, finally gave into them in the early hours of this morning. Irony upon ironies, that his long term condition would finally defeat him after a match against his first and his old Chairman of Football`s new club Notts County. This match on a day when another of his jewels, wide boy Boyd had left Peterborough to go to Nottingham Forest, shows that Keith`s footprint as a man and a manager will loom large over football for years to come. It is only just as being in the service of Football was his life from cradle to grave.
‘Keith’ as Gary Simpson said to me today ‘is a brilliant bloke, a friend to everyone and a trail blazer for the black community. Keith`s been overcoming the odds all his life when you think about it.’
Amen to that as the 6 foot four inch no nonsense centre forward spent 21 seasons as a player taking in 23 football clubs, making regular Football League appearances at Lincoln, Grimsby Town and Stockport County, before temporarily suspending his playing career with the Imps after the 1992-93 season. After a short spell as manager where we played some passing though unsuccessful football, he played a few more games for Mansfield Town before popping over to Northern Ireland with Cliftonville. It was here that he would get a good understanding of the Irish game which would serve him well in management. His career highlights include scoring as Stamford won the FA Vase in 1980 in a 2-0 win at Wembley as well as playing 3 internationals for St. Lucia in 1990.
Keith was handed his first managerial role by Imps chairman John Reames (RIP) but after less than a year in charge he was replaced by the chairman himself with KA returning to playing. Though the spell gave no real indication of his great managerial skills it did set a landmark with KA becoming the first black professional football manager in British football. When Keith finally hung up his boots as a semi pro his final club Ilkeston Town gave him the manager`s job in 1995. In 1997-98 he got them promoted as runner-up from the Southern Midland Division to the Premier Division. Northwich Victoria then poached Keith over to Cheshire in 2000-01 which is where he formed knowledge of the local leagues that he would extend to the Mid Lincs league as Alan Buckley brought him in as assistant manager of the Imps just in time for the admin.
Keith stayed on and took the hot seat in May 2002 and was unfazed by the cull as high earners Ian Hamilton, Kingsley Black and Justin Walker were moved on along with record appearance holder Grant Brown and the experienced David Cameron and Steve Holmes. This time he would be able to draw on non League expertise and an eye for talent that would serve him well throughout his managerial career. Simon Yeo came in with Ben Futcher and Simon Weaver, Richard Butcher and Dene Cropper joining the five players Keith was able to retain – Mazza, Morgs, Gainy and our gallivanting wingbacks Bimmo and Bailey. The attacking direct style ensured we battled our way back finishing the season with a playoff final defeat 2-5 to Bournemouth. Rob Bradley who put his house up still has tears in his eyes (as do I as I pen this) when he recalls the 15,000 Imps who poured into the Millennium stadium when they opened the gates that day. We didn`t lose we proved we had survived and come back from the dead.
We started the following season slowly with the unpopular sales of Mayo to Watford and Bimmo choosing to go to Cambridge United, but Keith and sidekick Simmo knew what they were doing with McCombe, Richardson, GTF (Gary Taylor-Fletcher), Franny Green and Kevin yes Ellison on loan. In the November Gary Simpson, himself a knowledgeable football man, would come into his own when Keith suffered the cerebral aneurysm that would sadly prove his ultimate undoing. A lifesaving operation saw him return to work in the February (2004) as a Sincil surge saw us make the playoff semi finals losing out to Peter Jackson`s Huddersfield. The following season Keith brought in Gareth McAuley and Ciaran Toner as we again made the play off final losing this time to Southend, with both goals coming in extra time. While Keith signed a three year deal that summer Yeo, Butcher, Gain, and GTF left the club. Despite this and Keith being put on gardening leave we still made the playoffs this time losing to Grimsby in the semis.
It was of little surprise to see KA become the new Peterborough manager on May 30th 2006 on a 4 year deal. He joined old friend and ex boss Barry Fry who always had a soft spot for the lad even when his desire to stay match fit got beyond a joke. Such was Keith`s love for the game that back in 87 Barry had to ban him from playing for a local Lincolnshire team every Sunday. You can see Keith enjoying playing uphill at Barnet such was his determination throughout his life to overcome adversity. Peterborough would see that Keith Alexander and Gary had not lost their touch when it came to unearthing talent as George Boyd, Aaron Mclean, Craig Mackail-Smith and Craig Morgan were signed. It was a travesty that Posh`s owner sacked him on 15 January 2007 following 6 straight league defeats that saw them sit 8th in the league.
Keith was then hired as a director of Football to advise rookie Bury manager Chris Casper in May 2007 a tenure that lasted until14 January 2008. A month later Keith and Gary Simpson were back together proving miracles can still happen in football at Macclesfield Town. One point from relegation with the smallest budget in League football they astounded the 1500 faithful and the critics. Four wins three draws and two defeats ensured they stayed up and confounded the critics with a mixture of youth loans and chewing gum and string.
Going back to what Simmo said at the start of this obituary ‘He`s s a brilliant bloke, a friend to everyone and a trail blazer for the black community. Keith`s been overcoming the odds all his life’
How many managers could do what Keith did in his life? From no money at Lincoln to a £500,000 a year budget at Macclesfield, knowing what he had inside him would defeat him in the end. Keith just got on with what he was given, inspired others and succeeded. Surely one of our own should be honoured with a Cathedral service and a civic send off, for those yellow socks will never be seen at Sincil Bank again.
RIP Keith – Imp, Role model inspiration to all and loving father.
Vital Lincoln sends its condolences, our thoughts are with Keith`s family at this very difficult time. This will have been a dreadful shock to his wife Helen their two children Jack and Jenny and his two other sons Paul and Matt. Keith died in the early hours of this morning as a result of a brain bleed from a long standing condition and had only returned to work two weeks ago.
Lincoln City 1/8/93 – 16/5/1994
PLD 48 W 13 D13 L 22 Success Rate 27%
Lincoln 1/5/02- 24/5/06
Pld 213 W 81 D 69 L 63 Success Rate 38%
Peterborough 30/5/06 – 15/1/07
Pld 34 W 14 D 7 L 13 Success Rate 41%
Macclesfield 27/2/08 – 3/3/10
Pld 85 W 25 D 40 L 20 Success Rate 29%