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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 10:59 GMT
Alexander seeks non-league gems
By Pete Oliver

Keith Alexander
Alexander will continue looking to find players in non-league football
Peterborough United boss Keith Alexander believes he has hit a rich seam of talent by digging deep into the reserves of non-league football.

Alexander has never been shy to exploit the potential of players outside the Football League.

In his previous post as boss of Lincoln City he had great success with the likes of Simon Yeo, Richard Butcher, Scott Kerr and Ben Futcher.

And since moving to Peterborough he has continued the trend, albeit at the more expensive end of the non-league market.

Striker Aaron McLean has been a huge success since signing on loan from Conference clubs Grays Athletic ahead of a permanent move in January.

And McLean will be joined at London Road when the transfer window re-opens by the Dagenham and Redbridge pair of striker Craig Mackail-Smith and defender Shane Blackett.

"There are a lot of very good players at that level," Alexander told BBC Sport.

"A lot of people seem to forget that they call them non-league players but they often have a background at league clubs at some stage, whether it be as YTS or young professionals.

"They are not non-league players in the old-fashioned sense. They know what is required at League level.

"It has always been a policy of mine and that won't change."
I had been at Lincoln long enough and it was time to move on

Keith Alexander

Alexander took charge at Peterborough in the summer and Yeo, Butcher and Futcher, who had mixed Conference and League football before finally making it at Lincoln, have all followed him into London Road.

The Posh boss has also recruited full-back Adam Smith from King's Lynn this season as he goes where other managers possibly fear to tread.

"A lot of people have by-passed non-league because they want to get so-called League players," Alexander said.

"I am happy about that, but I would not tell people how to do their job.

"I have a lot of contacts in non-league football. I had 10 or 12 years in it myself and I know they types of players and characters that are in it."

After ending his own League career as a striker with Grimsby, Stockport and Lincoln, Alexander briefly managed Lincoln for a first time before taking charge of Ilkeston Town and Northwich Victoria.

His eye for talent has served him well since, with McLean the latest eye-catcher.

We are going in an upward direction

Keith Alexander

The 23-year-old has scored five goals in eight games to help Peterborough into the League Two play-off zone and the third-round of the FA Cup.

McLean could end up costing a reported six-figure sum, while the combined fee for Mackail-Smith, 22, who has scored ten Conference goals this season, and Blackett, 24, has been put at 200,000.

Nevertheless, Alexander thinks it will be money well spent.

He added: "I first noticed Aaron at Aldershot and I have been keeping tabs on him. He was at Leyton Orient before that and he is desperate to do well. He certainly knows how to score goal.

"He is up there with the leading scorers and the other two lads are both very highly-rated. They have to get into our team, which I expect them to, and hopefully move on from there.

"We are going in an upward direction so hopefully they will progress with us and if they are doing well with us they will get the move they want.

"The opportunity is there for them to improve and improve us as a team."

Alexander's own boss is steeped in non-league tradition with Peterborough's director of football Barry Fry famed for his early successes with Barnet.

Alexander played under Fry at Underhill and so when the call came to offer him the job at London Road, Alexander decided to make a fresh start.

The 48-year-old still had two years of a contract to run at Lincoln but was ready for a new challenge following an impressive record of four seasons and four successive play-off finishes at Sincil Bank.

A lot of people have by-passed non-league because they want to get so-called League players. I am happy about that

Keith Alexander

Alexander knows what it takes to mount a promotion push and with more resources at his disposal at Peterborough, this time he could take the final step.

"I had been at Lincoln long enough and it was time to move on," he said.

"Four or five years is a long while at a club and the opportunity to come to Peterborough was too good to turn down.

"If you look at our home record over the last five or six seasons it's not the best, but we are still attracting four to four-and-a-half thousand.

"If we can put that right a lot of people will come and watch and then you can attract the type of players you want.

"With the new chairman providing the finances that could really set us off - if we can keep it going."

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