Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Alexander's trip of a lifetime

KEM Izzet and Karl Duguid (both Colchester). Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich and France). Andy Morrell (Blackpool). Forget for a moment that Graham Alexander's career as a professional has spanned nearly 20 years and taken in something over 800 games. In the just two weeks of football last month, the roll call of his opponents was enough to expose the absurd contrasts which this game can throw up.

Fourteen ridiculous days began like this. On 1 September, Alexander made his debut for Burnley at Colchester's Layer Road stadium, playing in a 3-2 win to just under 5,000 people. Then, in his very next match, Scotland's improbable victory over France was fought out at the Parc des Princes in front of 43,000 people and the £200,000 club signing marked the £18 million Ribery out of the game.

Within three days, Alexander had come back to earth with a bump. Morrell - remember the name - scored Blackpool's equaliser in a Lancashire derby. The goal came late and, for the Burnley players, a draw felt like defeat. At least by now, Alexander knows better than most that the odd reverse helps keep things in proportion.

The contrasts are vivid and the memories bright from this recent rush of excitement. After the Colchester game, Alexander remembers how his new Burnley friends mocked "the poor old man" for leaving the field early with cramp. In Paris, the sounds of his team-mates were of pure delight, following the win which propelled Scotland to the top of Group B in the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

"Out there on the pitch, the result felt stunning, unbelievable," he said. "Then in the dressing room we were just looking at each other and laughing. There was that sense that you had done something amazing at Hampden - and then you'd done it all over again in Paris. We'd proved it wasn't a fluke. You get great belief from things like that."

These pieces don't come my way very often - the opportunity to interview a Burnley footballer for a Scottish newspaper. The curse of Wade struck immediately, of course, and Alexander wasn't picked for Scotland's game against the Ukraine. He is however almost certain to start tomorrow night in the match with Georgia. Two words of thanks - to the sub-editor who came up with Alexander's trip of a life time (Alexander is a bus company in these parts) and to the old geezer who helped me set up the interview.

Read the rest of the article at:

Colchester to Paris

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