Keith Alexander was a man who transcended all levels of the beautiful game. However, if the reverence of the ‘Big Man’ was ever called into question then the attendance at Sincil Bank on Monday emphasised his popularity. A crowd numbering some 3,541 turned out to see the tribute match played out between an Alexander XI and an All Star XI.

The game was played in a carnival atmosphere and ended 4-4 and the calibre of the players involved underlined just how important Alexander was to British football.

The Linc spoke to some of the stars on show about their memories of the gentle giant, starting with Paul Ince, who was the All Star XI’s  player-manager on the day.

The former England and Liverpool captain said: “It was a great show from the fans and the likes of Les Ferdinand, Jimmy Hasselbaink and Paul Merson. It just goes to show how Keith touched a lot of people. Not just players and fans, but people who don’t even like football, and that shows the mark of the man.

“He was a trailblazer for black managers. He was someone I certainly looked up to when I first went into management and I’ll be trying to continue the good work he left us. He never got the recognition he deserved because he didn’t get the chance to manage at a higher level. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be, but we have to carry on his mantle now.

“My first club as a manager was Macclesfield, and sadly they were his last. I’d always pick up the phone to him, and he’d always have a smile on his face. There were never any problems – and I know what the budget at Macclesfield was like -but he never moaned and he made everyone around him smile.”

Ex-England and Coventry City ace Dion Dublin agreed: “Today [Monday 3rd May] was always going to be a memorable occasion. He was far too young to die, and we’re here to raise as much awareness as we possibly can for a really nice guy.

“He was a big old unit, Keith, and he took no prisoners. He was very passionate and that filtered through to his players. I wish this interview was on camera so I could show you the scar he gave me over my left eye!

“It’s hard to put into words, but just look at the changing rooms and the players that have shown up.  It’s sad, but we’re here to celebrate his life and say ‘thanks very much’ for opening the door for black managers. I can safely say that every player that Barry [Fry, Peterborough Utd Director of Football, friend of Keith] asked to come along has come along. We’ll miss him.  He’s going to be missed in every aspect.”

Former Chelsea and Holland legend Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink added: “I didn’t know Keith that well, but I knew a lot of him. This is a good cause and to contribute this way is, I think, a beautiful thing. What he has done in the game, especially for the black community, is wonderful.”