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Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Thursday, 14 April 2011 14:18 UK

Burnley's Graham Alexander receives Tony Ford plaudits

Graham Alexander
Alexander is the third oldest player to score in Premier League history

Tony Ford has paid tribute to Burnley's Graham Alexander, who is set to equal his record of 1,000 outfield appearances in English football.

Ex-Scotland defender Alexander is set to reach the landmark in front of the home fans against Swansea on Saturday.

Ford, who played alongside the 39-year-old at Scunthorpe, told BBC Radio Lancashire: "I knew he'd be a long time in the game because of his attitude.

"He just wanted to play every Saturday and he's not changed one bit."

Ford, who is currently the only outfield player to reach the landmark in the English game, added: "He loves training and he always has to be a winner - whether it's playing five-a-side on Monday morning or a pre-season run.

The years pass by and because you just enjoy playing so much, you just don't realise the amount of games you're clocking up

Tony Ford

"He has to be a winner and has to be at the front."

Ford's 1,000th appearance was for Rochdale in the quarter-finals of the Football League Trophy at Carlisle in March 2000.

"It just arrives, it's not something you count down to," the former midfielder said.

"The years pass by and because you just enjoy playing so much, you just don't realise the amount of games you're clocking up.

"Every season starts with the challenge of just getting into the first team - that for me is what it's about and I'm sure it's the same for Graham."

The 51-year-old hung up his boots in May 2002 before taking up an assistant manager's role at Rochdale.

He now works in the insurance industry but still scouts for former club Grimsby Town, where he is considered a legend by supporters.

Ford also played for Sunderland, Stoke, West Brom, Bradford, Barrow, Mansfield and Rochdale.

He puts his longevity down to luck with injuries.

"I never tackled, the worst injury in my 27-year career was four weeks out with a hamstring so looking after yourself and luck does come into it," he reflected.

"Plus I've played odd games when I've not been fully fit. I'm sure Graham's done the same and that's added to the total."

Alexander began his career with Scunthorpe before playing for Luton, Preston and Burnley.

Despite being born in Coventry he has also represented Scotland on 40 occasions.

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