This gentleman was a pioneer in the game and had two seasons at Underhill in that wonderful GM Conference team in the mid eighties
Regardless of which you prefer, the pre kick-off minute of silence or minute of applause, when Keith Alexander was remembered at football grounds in March 2010 I suspect everybody observed with total respect. Keith was one of football's “true gentleman” who passed away on 3rd March aged 53 after collapsing at his home. It was widely known that he suffered a brain aneurysm in 2003 while Manager at Lincoln City but bravely recovered to continue his career.
Born in Nottingham in November 1956 he represented his county St Lucia, was the first full-time black professional manager in the Football League, and is considered by many to be a pioneer of the modern game.
His list of clubs as a player, coach or manager over a 26 year career is extensive and well documented and he scored at Wembley in the 1980 FA Vase Final for winners Stamford. He also made a profound contribution to our club over 25 years ago. Keith left that same sense of human decency echoed by all his other clubs with the Bees supporters who were fortunate enough to have witnessed him play in amber and black at Underhill.
Keith had been a long time target for Bees Manager Barry Fry while at Kettering Town. The Rockingham Road outfit was to be a happy hunting ground for Barry over the years and fed Barnet players the calibre of Nicky Evans, Paul Richardson and Frank Murphy amongst others. The squad that Fry had put together for the start of the 1986-87 season, incidentally the first when automatic promotion was on offer from the GM Vauxhall conference, was full of creativity and sound defensively. It also and had considerable goal power – Evans, David Sansom and Steve Mahoney. It was just lacking height, strength and a link between midfield and attack, ingredients that Alexander could offer. For a tall man Keith possessed his fair share of ball skills too. A fee allegedly of around £10,000 secured his services in the summer of 1986.
he made is league debut at Kidderminster Harriers 16th August 1986 in the following line up which won 3-0 with goals from Margerrison 2 and Evans.
Steve Humphries – Steve Whitworth, Glyn Creaser, Kevin Millett, Barry Little – Edwin Stein, John Margerrison, Nigel Johnson, Nicky Evans - Gary Roberts and Keith Alexander. Subs, Dave Sansom and Robert Codner.
Keith's first goal for the Bees came in the 3-1 defeat of Maidstone United in August. The game attracted 2,140 fans, the first home league attendance of over 2,000 for some 15 years, such was the flair of that team. The highlights of the year for Keith personally were his brace at Gateshead in a 5-0 win, his contribution to the 6 point Christmas gift from Enfield - including a goal at Southbury Road - and his powerful role in the one sided 3-0 victory over Boston United in the FA Trophy replay at Cambridge United – the team were unstoppable that night. Barnet finished second to Scarborough in the final table and Keith made 47 appearances in the season scoring 9 times.
Barry Frys’ insistence on attacking flair and cavalier attitude was a joy to behold and attracted accolades galore. For the first time in many years three players registered over 20 goals, Evans, Mahoney, and Sansom. This was in no small way thanks to the endeavours of Alexander, all three have said so. Evans told me “Keith was the perfect support player for Dave and I, he created so many chances for us to score. Not just from flick on's either he also had brilliant close control and a good crosser”. Season 1986/7 was the season that finally re-launched Barnet Football Club as a major force in non league football again and there was to be more of the same the following year.
The squad was strengthened by the addition of midfielders Noel Ashford and Nicky Ironton and later forwards Gary Abbott and Herbie Smith arrived too.
The football served up by the club that season, as we went head to head with Lincoln City, was arguably the best since the late 1960's. The team were to say the least free scoring and in September in the space of a week the club defeated Northwich 4-1,Wycombe 7-0 and Kettering 4-0.
Christmas 1987 will always be remembered for the two stunning Alexander performances as he scored two in the 3-0 drubbing of Enfield at Underhill – in front of 4,105 and two days later scored a wonderful hatrick also at home to Sutton United as the Bees ran out 6-2 winners. 3,800 turned up for that game too, they were certainly halcyon days in that respect.
Barnet finished up as bridesmaids again in the League to Lincoln City although the race went to the very last game of the season. Keith made 39 appearances scoring 14 goals. In the closed season he moved on to Grimsby Town for £12,500 – a bargain! After spells at Stockport Lincoln and Mansfield he went into management at Lincoln, Ilkeston, Northwich and Peterborough. He was manager at Macclesfield when he died.
To try and sum up a character like Keith in a line is always difficult but it seems that most of the accolades intimated the fact that Keith was simply the sort of guy you wished you had got to know.