Graham Alexander retires from football

Graham Alexander has retired from professional football after a fantastic career which has seen him play for four different clubs as well as represent his country.

Alexander took penalties with the outside of his foot which is quite unorthodox

Alexander also became only the second outfield player to play over 1000 professional games during his career. For every club he played for he played a minimum of 150 league games which just shows how brilliant and consistent he has been since his debut for Scunthorpe United in the 1990-91 season. Remarkably, in the very next season he became a first team regular and was virtually an ever present for the team for the next four seasons. Even though he was usually deployed as a right back or a holding midfielder he could also score goals and in his 159 league games he got 18 goals.

Luton Town was the next club he signed for and continued to play in most games for them too. His £100,000 price tag did not faze him and there was no doubting his commitment for the cause with him playing 152 league games and added 15 goals to his career tally. Although his first season ended in relegation he stayed with the club in the old Second Division and played over 50 games for the first time in his career, the first year they were down in the Second Division.

Unfortunately for him and the club he could not help them get promoted and joined Preston North End in the 1998-99 season. In his second season at the club he helped the club gain promotion to Division One after scoring 10 goals in 58 appearances. It is not very often you get a player that can score that amount of goals from the positions he played for the club. After securing Preston’s place in the league for a number of years, he was appointed club captain and was taking all of their set pieces including penalties which accounted for many of his goals. During his eight years he did not suffer many injuries and was able to play in most of the games and was one of the first names on the team sheet. He made exactly 400 appearances for the club and was named in the PFA Championship’s Team of the Year in the 2004-05.

But he did eventually leave the club for rivals Burnley which was seen as slightly controversial and a little strange after he had turned them down earlier in his career. The transfer was completed for £200,000 so Preston could not really complain after all the years of service he had given them. At the age of 37 he gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time in his career and played in an amazing 61 games in all competitions that season and in the next season became the oldest player to make his Premier League debut. In his only season in the Premier League he scored seven goals in 33 games and was one of their better players in a season which ultimately ended in relegation. For Burnley, he played in his 1000th professional game when he came on as a sub in a game against Swansea City.

He left Burnley and returned to Preston North End where he has ended his career. To make it even more special in his very last game in his career he scored against Charlton Athletic which both supporters applauded.

It was a fantastic career and he will be proud of every moment of it and I am sure the fans will have some wonderful memories of his time at their club. Alexander will also be proud of his 40 international caps for Scotland and his only disappointed will be that he didn’t score for his country.

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Shrewsbury Town heading for promotion

To win the league or gain promotion a team has to keep winning games when they don’t play at their best and this is exactly what Shrewsbury Town did against Crawley Town.

They were under severe pressure for most of the game especially in the first half and even in the second when they were more in the game, they only had 40% of the possession. They scored two goals from only three shots on target which shows that they have the quality upfront to punish teams even when they are underperforming.

Graham Turner proved yet again that he is one of the best managers in the division as his half time substitutes were exactly what his team needed and Marvin Morgan scored the winner after some battling work from Jermaine Grandison. Grandison won the ball and played through Morgan who cooly slotted it past the advancing keeper. Turner, realised he had to change things as his team were under a lot of pressure however his team had just equalised through Mark Wright before halftime and this may have made some managers change their team talk and give the players on the pitch another 15 minutes to change their performance. But, he stuck to his guns and this proved decisive as they went on to win the game.

I was really impressed with Shrewsbury and they had some standout performances all over the pitch. Goalkeeper Chris Neal pulled off some brilliant saves including a fantastic reaction stop from Sanchez Watt. He did keep them in the game at times and couldn’t really do much about the goal as it was a very good finish from John Akinde but he definitely deserves a lot of praise for his performance. Ian Sharps, at the back also impressed me and his experience could prove vital if the team are to get promoted this season. He led the defence well and was rarely beaten in the air and although he may not be the quickest his positioning was usually perfect which gave him a few yards so he did not get outrun by the fast forward line of Crawley.

I really like Mark Wright on the wing for Shrewsbury as well because he has the pace and directness to frighten defenders and isn’t afraid to try a trick. Also his goal scoring rate is really impressive for a winger and he must contribute to a lot of goals with assists too. It is quite rare to find a winger that will add a substantial amount of goals but in Wright they definitely have a constant threat. Matt Richards caught my eye too and I am surprised he is playing in League 2 as he looked like he had a lot of potential when he was a youngster at Ipswich Town. He plays the game simple and keeps the ball very well for his team. When the team were under pressure he used his experience to slow the tempo down and dictate the game.

Now the strikers is where Shrewsbury really show their quality as in my opinion they have three strikers that will score goals in this division. James Collins looks like a goal scorer who will get a lot from inside the box and quite a few of them with his head. Terry Gornell who did not have the best of games in fairness is usually a very clever striker and will perform better than this and will score a lot more goals for the club. Finally, they have Marvin Morgan who is very tall but this isn’t why he is a good striker, it is his ability with the ball at his feet and his turn of pace. He also showed that he can finish when the opportunity comes along.

Shrewsbury are a good bet for promotion and I for one will not be backing against them because they have quality all over the pitch and a manager that deserves some more success in his long career.