Ten years ago, the footballing world descended into a state of shock following the news that one of the game’s true pioneers had tragically passed away.
After feeling unwell as he returned home from Macclesfield Town’s League Two clash at Notts County, Keith Alexander was taken to Lincoln Hospital where he subsequently passed away.
Only a few short hours before, he had been on the phone to Chairman Mike Rance, discussing an impending touchline ban which was being imposed on him for letting his passion spill over – something which he held in abundance.
Alexander had been set to take charge of his 100th game for The Silkmen at Hereford United the following Saturday, yet the outpouring of emotion which followed the Big Man’s death was something which nobody will ever forget.
The following evening, the England team wore black armbands to mourn his passing during their game with Egypt and clubs throughout the country paid tribute to him the following weekend as the footballing world united to honour one of their own.
Keith was the first full time professional black manager in the Football League and in addition to this, he was also the first qualified black referee in England.
After retiring from a playing career which had seen him turn out for a whole host of clubs including Barnet, Grimsby and Lincoln City, Keith was appointed Imps Manager back in 1993 – it was at this point that history was made.
After spells at Ilkeston Town and Northwich Victoria between 1996 and 2001, Alexander returned to Sincil Bank the following summer.
Keith took Lincoln to the League Two Play-Offs during four consecutive seasons – yet promotion eluded him as he then made the move to Peterborough United.
Despite the fact that Alexander unearthed the likes of George Boyd, Aaron McClean and Craig Mackail-Smith, he was relieved of his duties before the season was out and following a short spell at Bury, joined The Silkmen on 27th February 2008.
Macc were in a perilous situation at the time, lying just one point above the League Two relegation zone.
A run of four wins and three draws in nine games steered Macc to safety however and this was enough to warrant a two-year contract from the club at the end of the season – something which was renewed in January 2010.
Keith encapsulated everything that is good about the game – he looked after his players, always had a word or two for the fans and never took life too seriously.
He was the perfect gentleman and his legacy in the game will never be forgotten.
Speaking to the BBC shortly after Keith’s death, his son Matthew stated –
"If he was looking down and saw the reaction that followed his death and how valuable people thought he was, he would be smiling.
He would realise that all his hard work paid off."
A decade later, we are still smiling as we remember one of English Football’s true greats.