PHOTOS: Graham Alexander makes 1,000 senior appearances

0
Have your say

DECEMBER 6th, 1988. Graham Alexander pulls on a first team shirt for the very first time, as Scunthorpe United host Halifax Town in the first group game in the Sherpa Van Trophy.

It is a time of firsts - Robin Beck’s rather apt “First Time”, used in the Coca-Cola advert of the day - is her first, and only, UK number one.

Graham Alexander with a special shirt to mark his 1000th apperance as a professional football player as a subsititute late on in the game.   PHOTOS BY ANDREW SMITH

Graham Alexander with a special shirt to mark his 1000th apperance as a professional football player as a subsititute late on in the game. PHOTOS BY ANDREW SMITH

A 19-year-old Kylie Minogue is also top of the album charts with her eponymous debut “Kylie”.

Not many may remember Beck, but, like Kylie, Alexander has enjoyed similar longevity in his trade.

So much so, Saturday saw him become only the fifth player to make 1,000 senior career appearances, and only the second outfield player.

He joins former Iron teammate Tony Ford, along with legendary goalkeepers Pat Jennings, Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence.

The achievement assures him of a place in football’s all-time hall of fame, but, typically of the man, it is something to look back on with pride when his career is over - and there are plenty more miles left in the tank yet.

He is focussing on a play-off push, and he said: “You hope you achieve things in football, but you never know when it could be your last game or your last training session.

“That’s the world we live in.

“To finally get there, it is a good feeling, I’m not going to lie. It’s something I can look back on when I’ve finished football.

“But hopefully it’s not the end of the story. We’re chasing the play-offs and still have that as the target.

“We want to achieve something. We knew how special it was two years ago to do it, and that’s still the goal for everyone in that changing room to do it this season as well.

“I think people miss the point in the Championship, it’s like this every year. People make a late run and get to the play-offs on form and take it into the play-offs.

“But there are probably eight teams thinking the same thing, so we’ve just got to keep our council, not look too far ahead – just look to the next game. Can we win that? I think we can, and then we just go on from there.

“The play-offs is the target for everyone. We want to do something and hopefully we will.”

While he admits it will take time for his milestone to sink in, Alexander admits he was humbled by the reception from the fans, players and staff after he came on as an 87th-minute substitute for Chris Eagles against Swansea on Saturday: “It was amazing. I was just glad to get on the pitch and be part of the team and winning the game was extra special.

“The reception when I came on was brilliant, and at the end as well from the supporters and the guard of honour from the lads – I didn’t expect it at all and it’s a special feeling.

“I’m glad it happened at Turf Moor.”

He almost capped a remarkable day with a goal - Dorus De Vries tipping his injury time free kick onto the bar, and he smiled: “The keeper didn’t read the script to be fair. I had a word with him at the end.

“I was half wheeling away but then I thought ‘some things are too good to be true’.

“But being there, with all my team-mates around and my family here, that’s enough for me.”

The fans and media have been on countdown, sensing history in the making, but for Alexander, while aware he was approaching the magical four-figure mark, it has been business as usual: “At the start of the season you know how many you need because people tell you, and I’ve just been keeping my eye on it and keeping my head down.

“It started getting mentioned six or seven games ago.

“It sort of dragged out a little bit.

“When people start talking about it you just want to get there and do it.

“I’ve just been trying to concentrate on my daily life – just coming in and training hard, trying to get in the team and helping the lads. That’s all I’ve been doing.

“It was special to do it here as well.

“I could have done it the other day at Nottingham Forest. I just wanted to do it.

“Looking back now and the reception, it’s good that it was here.”

And, at 39, he fully intends to hunt down Ford’s total.

Ford played until he was 42, making 1,083 appearances.

Asked what his secret is, he said: “Hard work really. I’ve always put effort into my football from Monday to Friday and then into the games. I think I’ve had that instinct inside myself all along but it’s been encouraged with numerous coaches and managers over the years, and other team-mates.

“Just going out onto the training pitch every day is where I want to be. That’s the buzz I get every single day whether it’s raining, snowing or whatever. I love being out there playing football with my mates, and I’ve just been lucky enough, touch wood, with injuries over the years.

“I think you need a bit of luck, but to get here after all these years has been great.

“To match Fordy, who I played with at Scunthorpe for a little bit – it’s amazing how both of us got to 1000.

“I’ve just got to chase his total now.

“But I’m just going to keep enjoying myself and see where it takes me.”

Graham Alexander: A Career in Numbers:

1988-89 1 app for Scunthorpe

1989-90 1 app for Scunthorpe

1990-91 1 app for Scunthorpe

1991-92 49 apps for Scunthorpe

1992-93 51 apps for Scunthorpe

1993-94 51 apps for Scunthorpe

1994-95 48 apps for Scunthorpe

Total 202 apps for Scunthorpe

1995-96 42 apps for Luton

1996-97 59 apps for Luton

1997-98 44 apps for Luton

1998-99 38 apps for Luton

Total 183 apps for Luton

1998-99 12 apps for Preston

1999-2000 58 apps for Preston

2000-01 41 apps for Preston

2001-02 50 apps for Preston

2002-03 50 apps for Preston

2003-04 49 apps for Preston

2004-05 47 apps for Preston

2005-06 45 apps for Preston

2006-07 45 apps for Preston

2007-08 3 apps for Preston

Total 400 apps for Preston

2007-08 45 apps for Burnley

2008-09 61 apps for Burnley

2009-10 35 apps for Burnley

2010-11 33 apps for Burnley (so far)

Total 174 apps for Burnley (so far)

Plus 40 apps for Scotland

1 app for Scotland B

TOTALS

Scunthorpe 202 apps

Luton 183 apps

Preston 400 apps

Burnley 174 apps

Scotland 41 apps

Total 1,000 career apps