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Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Keith Alexander: A legend remembered

Keith Alexander
Keith Alexander led Lincoln City to four consecutive play-off campaigns

By BBC Lincolnshire sport producer Michael Hortin

The four years from 2002 which Keith Alexander spent in charge of Lincoln City were without doubt my favourite time in my job.

Not just because of the relative success the Imps had, but because of dealing with the big man.

Those who never had the pleasure of meeting Keith have probably read the tributes paid and felt them to be what would be expected when someone dies.

I can assure you that those tributes are all heartfelt.

Keith would talk to anyone - whether you were a fan of his team or the opposition, a player, manager, in the media or frankly not that bothered about football.

I think it is fair to say that many people in Lincolnshire and fans of teams in the lower leagues respected and liked Keith.

You often sense with some in the public eye that appearances are a chore, but with Keith that never came across. Ask him for a favour and he would always try to help.

Once BBC Lincolnshire sent a reporter out to see him for an interview and she got lost.

But it sums Keith up that he got in his car and drove out to find her, even though it would make him late for another meeting.

Out of adversity, Keith played a major role in the rebirth of Lincoln City Football Club

BBC Lincolnshire sport producer Michael Hortin

However much I say how nice Keith was, we should also not forget he was a good manager.

Frankly, what he did in his second spell at Lincoln City was nothing short of a miracle, even if it did not end in promotion.

When Keith took charge the Imps were on their uppers, in administration and without a brass farthing to rub together.

The former Grimsby player, who came late to professional football, turned to an area he knew best, having played the majority of his career and cut his managerial teeth there: non-league football.

Keith put together a new-look team on such a tight budget that at the start of the 2002-03 season most of us figured one place above relegation would be success. How little we knew.

Four successive years in the play-offs was just brilliant. Some may say that the Imps missed the ultimate goal of promotion, but the point was that out of adversity, Keith played a major role in the rebirth of Lincoln City Football Club.

Let's see a top league manager deal with the budgets Keith had at the likes of Lincoln City and Macclesfield Town.

Ask the players why he was successful and the answer seems pretty unanimous - 'He treated me well. I wanted to play for him. He was like a father, friend and manager all rolled into one.'

The other theme in the coverage of Keith's untimely passing has been the fact that he was the first full-time black football league manager.

Whilst he was proud of that, perhaps a greater tribute to Keith would be for football to better reflect society at large with more black managers in the game.

In the next few weeks and months Lincoln City, a club I know he still held dear to him, will rightly mark the passing of a great man and manager.

Don't be surprised if it includes yellow socks at some point along the way!

Finally, my thoughts - and, I am sure, those of everyone who knew Keith - are with the family he was so proud of.

The big man's premature death has left a big hole in our lives. It must have left a giant chasm in theirs.

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