Age is only a number - Graham Alexander

Graham Alexander.'Photo Ben Parsons
Graham Alexander.'Photo Ben Parsons
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IF anyone in football knows age is just a number, it’s Clarets skipper Graham Alexander.

The 39-year-old became to oldest player to make his Premier League debut in August 2009 - just one of a number of milestones the consummate professional has clocked up in a distinguished career.

And while he is six years older than new boss Eddie Howe, Alexander - ahead of a return to Scunthorpe - the club where he started his career - insists there is no issue.

Much has been made of the age of Burnley’s youngest ever manager, but Alexander said: “Everyone else can talk about it.

“I won’t be because I don’t like people talking about my age all the time so I’m not going to do that same.

“I don’t think it’s got any bearing on the fact that he can do the job at all.

“He’s done a great job at Bournemouth – an amazing job to be fair when you look at it – and now hopefully he’ll do the same for us.

“I don’t think age comes into it, at all, for anyone.

“He knows what he’s good at and knows how to get a winning team on the pitch, and I think that’s all that counts.

“He’s obviously a good man-manager because you can see the rapport he had with the Bournemouth players.

“He’s someone who can handle himself around people and players.

“He’s been in the game all his life so I don’t see why he can’t be a great success for Burnley.”

Managers have come and go for a player closing in on 20 years since his Football League debut with the Iron in April 1991, and he admits he can’t remember how many he’s played under: “I don’t actually. I’ve never really worked it out!

“I’ve been playing 22 years so I’d probably say 22 managers going off the way managers seem to come and go.

“But there’s no recipe for success really is there.

“You could have an older manager or a young manager, a middle-aged manager.

“It’s about what they bring to the club and I’m sure our manager is going to bring all the qualities that he brought to Bournemouth to us.”

A new broom brings a clean slate for players, and those out of favour get a chance to fight their way back into the squad and the team, and Alexander said: “Training’s been good, it’s been competitive, as you’d expect under a new manager. Everyone wants to prove how good they are. It’s a new lease of life for the lads that haven’t been involved.

“It’s a real competitive edge to training.

“The manager’s going to have a short period of time to make his mind up on players and his team, but he seems to know what he wants from a team and how he’s going to go about it.

“He’s going to give the team a direction to play with and that’s what we need.”

Alexander will retain his link between the coaching and playing staff he took on under Brian Laws, although he remains very much a player: “I know how I want my career to go playing wise and then moving into the coaching/management side.

“I’ve spoken to the manager already about that and told him how much playing means to me and he fully agreed with it because he didn’t have the luck of playing out a full career with injuries.

“He could see my point of view and that was great for me.

“I had a brief chat with the manager about things the other day and he asked me what my input was, and it was pretty minimal on the coaching side, it was more of a coach on the pitch as an experienced player and captain.

“He’s happy for me to carry on in that role for now. He just wants a dialogue with me to keep him informed about how I’m thinking and feeling.

“That’s great for me. As long as we’re both going to be honest with each other that’s all you can ask for.

“He’s not made me any promises and I don’t expect any because you can’t do that in football. I’m just going to have to compete for my place in the team the same as I have done for the previous 20 years and see what happens.””

Remarkably, since leaving Scunthorpe in 1995, he has only played once at Glanford Park, with Preston on the way to the Second Division title, and he is looking forward to his return: (“I was really unlucky, when I first came here Burnley had just played them the week before, and Preston were due to play them a couple of weeks later so I happened to miss two chances of playing there in the space of a month,

“I’ve only played there once since I left, when I first went to Preston.

“When I did go back it was after about five years it seemed really natural because I’d spent seven years there, so I’ll be in the changing room where I first started my professional career 23 years ago or whatever.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great ground and I really enjoyed my time there.

“It’s a fantastic club to start my football career off, and they gave me my chance so I do owe them something, but not tomorrow.”