Rest in peace ‘Big Man’


Gone but not forgotten: Former Imps boss Keith Alexander passes away. Photo: David Ingham

The football world shook with the news that Keith Alexander had passed away at the age of 53.

When the news broke, I’m sure I will be one of many who shed a tear for the big man. He was truly one in a million, not only because of football, but he was a lovely, kind-hearted man. You only need to look at the messages left in remembrance of him to see how many lives Keith touched.

Here in Lincoln, Keith was a legend and adored by fans such as myself. The success he had at Lincoln in his second spell as manager was, quite frankly, a miracle. When he took over in 2002, the club was literally on its knees. Just out of administration, the Imps were tipped to be relegation favourites. To be honest, most Imps fans would have agreed.

Somehow, Keith assembled a squad made up mostly of non-league players looking for a break in the Football
League. Everyone knew they weren’t the most gifted football players, but they ran their hearts out for the gaffer.

He guided the Imps into the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium where they came up against Bournemouth. It was such an amazing feat, I was present at Cardiff and like many fans couldn’t believe I was watching my beloved Lincoln City. The Imps lost the game 5-2, but that result wasn’t the point. Keith Alexander dragged the whole football club out of depression and into the spotlight. It was an amazing day and one that I and many Lincoln fans will always remember and we have Keith to thank for that.

During the following season Keith suffered a cerebral aneurysm. There’s the saying that you can’t keep a good man down and in just four months he was back in the dugout. Despite his health he again guided the Imps into the play-offs, narrowly losing out to Huddersfield Town in the semi-finals.

In true Keith style, the team dusted themselves down, picked themselves up and reached the play-off final again the following season. Unfortunately his Lincoln side narrowly lost out to Southend United after extra
time.

The following season he again guided the Imps into the play-offs losing out to Grimsby Town in the semi-final. It was a travesty that Keith couldn’t guide his beloved Lincoln City to promotion, but nevertheless it doesn’t detract from Keith’s time at the club.

His time at Sincil Bank will always be remembered fondly and every Lincoln fan owes a great deal of thanks to the big man.

He left the club during the summer of 2006 and went onto pastures new, most notably Peterborough and Macclesfield Town. It shows how much respect the Imps faithful had for Keith as upon his return he would always be given a warm welcome, like a family member coming back home.

Away from football he was a lovely man who would do anything for anyone. When reading the tributes to Keith, I came across this lovely piece from a Barnet supporter where Keith once played.

“Indeed, we were so enamoured by the easy-going nature of the striker, that I decided to write to Alexander via the club, and request some signed photos. Late one evening the following week, I was at home with my parents when the doorbell rang. Slightly suspicious that there was a well-built stranger stood on the front step, my Mum applied the doorchain and part opened the door. ‘I’m Keith Alexander. Is your son home? I’ve a package for him,’ he said, my mum blissfully unaware who he was. Rather embarrassingly dressed in my pyjamas, I raced to the door convinced this must be some type of wind-up at my expense. “Thanks for your letter. Here’s what you asked for,” he smiled, handing me an envelope. ‘I got the whole team to sign them.’ And then he was gone, but the memory has stayed with me forever.”

It has been well documented that Keith was the first full-time black manager in the Football League. The one thing that stood out to me was that I didn’t recognise that. He wasn’t black nor was he white, he was Keith who will never be forgotten, not just by me, but by a lot of football fans around the world, which is a great tribute to the man.

I’m sure he will carry on watching the Imps with his well-loved Lincoln City baseball cap and lucky yellow
socks, probably still yelling at the referee. He will always be remembered as a great servant to Lincoln City Football Club and a true gentleman.

Keith’s funeral will be held at Lincoln Cathedral on Monday 15th March at 2pm.

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