As an aspiring sports reporter studying journalism at the University of Lincoln I was fortunate enough to meet and interview Keith Alexander on several occasions while he was manager at Lincoln City.

Since news broke on Wednesday 3rd March that the Macclesfield Town manager had passed away I have been searching for the notes from that first meeting in November 2004. I was 18 years old when I first met Alexander and interviewed him as part of a news writing exercise.

The night before the interview was to take place I spent hours writing and re-writing my line of questioning to make sure I expressed my points correctly in accordance with the two months training I had.

Nervous was an understatement for the way I was feeling when I approached Lincoln’s Sincil Bank ground, but I was determined to make a success of my first foray into sports journalism.

When I arrived at the stadium the Lincoln City squad was hard at work on the training ground under the watchful eye of man himself. The thing that struck me first about Alexander was his clothing; he was wearing his trademark yellow socks, a long blue raincoat and a white baseball cap.

Once training was over Alexander strode into reception, a cheery smile on his face and an out-stretched hand ready to greet me.

We went to his office in the Lincolnshire Echo stand and the former Ilkeston Town boss soon calmed those nerves by asking everything about me, where I was from, which team did I support and what did I want to do when I graduated.

Many people involved in football have this past week said that the big man had time for anyone, which was very true. He was a true gentleman and was genuinely interested in what people had to say and would listen to everything that was said.

During the interview I probably made dozens of mistakes but Alexander was helpful and supportive, he understood that this was the first time I had interviewed anybody in professional sport.

We discussed the unwelcome return of racism to football, where Keith reflected on his own experiences as one of the first black managers in the English game.

When asked about the racial chanting suffered by players such as Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole during an international friendly between England and Spain in 2004 he said: “Firstly, I am not surprised because I think it is always underneath the surface and secondly I don’t think the authorities have done enough to stamp it out, particularly in countries like Spain, but hopefully with it in the forefront because of the England game the governing bodies will do something about it.”

“I haven’t suffered any sort of racial abuse during my time as a manager, but during my playing days it was commonplace, and you just had to get your head down and ignore it.”

During the interview, I also asked him what he thought of Lincoln’s chances of promotion. The Imps game plan came in for much scrutiny when Alexander was manager, with many accusing the club of playing a long-ball style.

But Alexander refuted this and told me that his team had some quality players and could achieve the club’s aim of eventually playing in the Championship.
He said: “This club aims to be in The Championship, off the field things are being put into place for that to happen in terms of infrastructure and facilities and on the field we have some brilliant players who play good football and hopefully this will be our season.”

Unfortunately 2004/05 was not to be Alexander’s season and Lincoln lost to Southend United in the playoff final. He would leave Sincil Bank in 2006. Alexander had a brief stint as Peterborough United manager, a spell as director of football at Bury and a two-year appointment at Macclesfield Town, where tragically the big man died a few short hours after his side lost away to Notts County.

Keith Alexander summed up all that is good about the game of football; he was passionate about the sport and understood what it meant to people. He was also a devoted family man and a true gentleman and it was a privilege to have met him.


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