Date:Saturday May 16 2009
Scottish International, Graham Alexander, at the grand old age of 37 has been a revelation this season for the Clarets.
He has contributed significantly to our success with the Clarets reaching the Carling Cup Semi-Final and of course achieving the dream of a Championship Play-Offs Final at Wembley where there will play Sheffield United on Spring Bank Holiday 25th May. A victory will see the Clarets in the top flight for the first time since 1976.
It has been a long season with two successful cup runs in both the Carling Cup and FA Cup knocking out Premier League opposition along the way. Not many Championship clubs, in fact none could boast that they beat Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur (at least in home leg), Fulham and West Brom ie 5 top flight clubs in one season!
The cup runs and play-offs games have contributed to the amazing statistic that we will have played 61 games by the time the final whistle blows at Wembley.
Only Manchester United will have played more games and they will have done it using a total of 34 players compared to just 23 Clarets.
Many Clarets fans, myself included feared our small squad would succomb to injuries and tiredness in the second-half of the season. However, we have either been lucky or we simply have more depth and quality in the squad than previous seasons because our achievements this season have been remarkable. In a way because we managed to avoid the inevitable injuries and tiredness becoming too detrimental, the small squad has been an advantage allowing the same group of players to continually play together and build up a strong understanding and consistency of play.
The oldest man in the squad, Graham Alexander has led by example. He has started in 60 games so far and completed all of them apart from two matches both late in the season when he picked up knocks.
This is actually a club record. The previous record was held by former Clarets goalkeeper,Adam Blacklaw in the 60s. He notched up 59 appearances in 1960-61, the season we played in Europe after winning the Division 1 title in 1959-60.
They must make 'em strong North of the Border!
Speaking about the new record, Grezza in typical modest fashion said:
'I believe so, Beasty's one behind me as well, and a few one or two behind.A lot of players have played a lot of games this season, but we keep digging deep and finding it within us to pull ourselves up again.'
Alexander's achievement though is remarkable and his performances have improved significantly since Coyle started playing him more and more in the holding midfield role just in front of the back four. He has also of course played in his more familiar right back role but this has normally been when injuries have forced the change.
Grezza has also recently picked up the title of 'Mr Cool' for his efforts from the penalty spot. His last penalty was the crucial goal he scored against Reading in the Play-Offs Semi-Final first leg at Turf Moor.That was Grezza`s 10th goal of the season from the spot, a 100% record!
Graham Alexander was signed by Steve Cotterill (inspirational Steve!) from Preston for £200,000 in August 2007. He signed a two year contract which was extended by a year last month. It was perhaps a surprise signing considering that Grezza had been 9 years at Deepdale but the offer of an extra year in the contract was enough to persuade Alexander to don the Claret&Blue.
Cotterill having signed Alexander for his defensive qualities finished up playing him in midfield for a time, obviously a sign of the future to come but to be honest he put in some indifferent performances up to the start of this season and was becoming a target of ridicule from a section of Clarets fans.
What a difference a season makes! Graham Alexander was this year voted the Players' Player of the Year at the recent official awards ceremony and picked up a number of accolades and awards at the earlier Supporters' Clubs Player of the Year Awards night.
Date:Saturday May 16 2009
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