Keith Alexander passed away on the 3rd March at the age of 53. A funeral of thanksgiving was held for the former Lincoln City manager at Lincoln Cathedral at 2pm on Monday 15th March.
The funeral was packed with family, friends and football fans all wanting to pay their last respects to Alexander. Everton manager David Moyes, Newcastle boss Chris Hughton and former England international, Sir Trevor Brooking were all in attendance.
Fans representing Keith’s former clubs were present wearing their respective club’s colours and welcomed Keith’s coffin into the Cathedral with a round of applause. During the service, Mike Rance, the Macclesfield Town F.C chairman and Keith’s son Paul, both gave moving tributes. Sixth Form pupils from Lincoln Minster School performed two of Keith’s favourite songs, Mr.Bojangles and the famous Bob Marley song, “No Woman No Cry”.
As Keith’s body was taken out of the Cathedral, a spontaneous round of applause echoed through the historic building, giving Alexander the perfect send-off. As Alexander’s coffin was driven away yet again everyone in sight, joined in unison wishing the “big man” a poignant farewell.
A private burial at Dunholme Churchyard followed the service held at the Cathedral.
The Linc spoke after the funeral to ex-footballers, former managers, chairmen and writers who had all known Keith and all gave evocative accounts as to how he will be remembered in their eyes.
Ex-footballer and now pundit Robbie Earle shared his memories of Keith: “He was such an easy going guy, and someone who always had a good word to say. He was always at peace with everything and always had time for everyone.”
Keith Alexander will be remembered amongst other things as the first black manager ever to take charge of an English football league club. One of his very first managerial spells was at Ilkeston Town and lifelong supporter Ian Slany reflected on the kind of manager Keith was.
He said: “He was the most successful manager ever at Ilkeston [Town]. He lifted the ghost of our previous poor spells in the FA Cup and against Rochdale, as in 1981 we beat The Dale to finally reach the FA Cup first round where we played Scunthorpe. As a manager he was fantastic.
“Today was a day that nobody wanted to be at, but a day that nobody would want to miss.”
Alexander’s importance to Lincoln City F.C will never be forgotten but always remembered. Ever since he took over in May 1993 as manager at Sincil Bank he has always been regarded as a legend to the Imps’ faithful.
During his second spell in the Sincil Bank dugout, he took The Imps to four consecutive play-offs between 2002-2006 which still stands as a club record today. Imps’ chairman Steff Wright, was at the helm when Alexander was manager of City and he summed up his feelings of Keith in a sentence, “Keith put more into the game, than he took out.”
Alexander known throughout the game as a nurturer, someone who brought the best out of players, something all the best managers possess. Jamie Forrester was brought to Lincoln City by Keith, initially on loan but later in a permanent deal from Bristol Rovers. Forrester reflected upon his time playing under Alexander.
He said: “At the time Keith signed me I was actually contemplating my future as a footballer and thinking of not playing for much longer. Yet when he signed me, he also got me scoring which in turn led to me signing a four year deal at Sincil Bank. I will remember Keith as a fantastic man, who was honest and genuine. The turnout today was tremendous and he would’ve been proud.”
Respected mainly as a football manager, Keith did have a career as a footballer playing for Stamford, Barnet, Grimsby Town, Stockport County, Mansfield and Lincoln City. It was Stamford where, as a player he had his first taste of success. In the 1980 FA Vase final playing for Stamford against Guisborough Town, Alexander scored the winning goal in a memorable 2-0 victory for The Daniels.
Malcolm Hird was manager for Stamford on that occasion and explains that Keith was a “give it to him” type of player.
“He was always very skilled on the ball and a potential match winner you want in your side. Keith was always the first to turn up for training and was always a very passionate man when it came to football.
“I am staggered by the amazing tributes that have been given already to him. To sum up the impact of Keith’s death, there was 13 players in that FA Vase side, three including Keith have died and the other ten are here today to celebrate his life.”
Grahame Lloyd a current freelance broadcaster and journalist has previously written about Alexander and the team he managed at Lincoln. He described Alexander as a “gentle giant” and said: “Keith and I worked together on the book [One Hell of a Season: Imps, Pilgrims and Tales of the Unexpected] during the 2002-03 season and we talked about writing his life story one day.
“We both agreed that for it to be viable, he needed, as a manager, to be successful – that is, to get Lincoln City out of League Two.
“Sadly, he never quite achieved that but in terms of what he did for the club, especially in taking The Imps to Cardiff for the first time in 2003 after they’d just come out of administration, he was a huge success.”Tweet