Alexander made over 1000 appearances as a player, and captained Burnley in the Premier League
Alexander made over 1000 appearances as a player, and captained Burnley in the Premier League

Just eight days after Stephen Robinson resigned, the Graham Alexander era at Motherwell begins.

The 49-year-old represented Scotland 40 times, but having never played or managed in Scottish football there is an air of the unknown about the man tasked with immediately moving the Fir Park club clear of relegation.

Here, BBC Scotland charts his career and assesses what he will bring to the role.

The player

Those who played alongside Alexander describe him as having been a model professional, which chimes with the fact he is one of only three outfield players in British football to have made over 1,000 career appearances.

He played with Scunthorpe United, Luton Town, Preston, and reached the Premier League with Burnley at the age of 37, becoming the oldest English top-flight debutant. He was extremely fit and dedicated everything to maximising his ability on the pitch.

His manager at the Lancashire club, Owen Coyle, raved about his leadership. Alexander’s mentality is perhaps best summed up by a story from his time at Burnley, just after Eddie Howe took over in 2011.

Howe brought a 25-year-old Marvin Bartley – now Livingston captain – with him from Bournemouth, as a dynamic defensive midfielder, to play in Alexander’s position. The squad was put through their paces via the renowned beep test, and the pair were the final men standing.

Alexander, then approaching 40, was not prepared to give an inch to the young upstart Bartley, as both completed the test to the bitter end while the rest of the squad watched on in awe.

The manager

Graphic detailing Graham Alexander's managerial record

The leadership qualities which Alexander demonstrated as a player have continued into management, where he has achieved success at every club he has led, before an often brutal end.

He took Fleetwood Town into the third tier of English football for the first time in their history, and guided them to a 10th-place finish. But he was sacked just a month into the 2015-16 season after a run of two wins in 10 games.

He subsequently went into Scunthorpe, then in League One, and again had a swift impact as they made a late play-off charge before falling short. The next season, though, they made the play-off semi-finals before defeat by Millwall, and Alexander was eventually dismissed the following campaign with the team in fifth, having tumbled out of the automatic promotion places after a poor run.

Clearly impressed by his credentials, Salford City – backed by Manchester United’s famous Class of 92 – put Alexander in charge and he steered them to the football league via the play-offs in the 2018-19 season. The Scot managed them to a respectable 11th-place finish last term, which was ended on a points-per-game basis due to Covid-19.

They also reached the final of the EFL Trophy. Five games into the current campaign Alexander was sacked, with Salford in fifth place in League Two.

Does he fit the Motherwell model?

Motherwell have been successful in recent years by doing two things well. Firstly, they have been excellent at scouting rough diamonds from the English lower leagues and giving them the platform to launch their careers before selling them at a profit.

Secondly, they have a strong academy and pathway to the first team which has allowed the likes of David Turnbull, Allan Campbell, James Scott, Jake Hastie and many more to flourish and again, crucially, earn the club cash.

Alexander has shown a willingness to give young players a chance, and has an extensive network of contacts throughout the English leagues from his time as a player and manager. At Scunthorpe he signed forward Ivan Toney on loan, who is now flying in the English Championship with Brentford, and defender Duane Holmes on a free, who was sold to Derby for around £700,000.

No manager or club gets every signing right, but Alexander has proven himself adept at building a squad.

Any concerns?

Despite some successes, the fact remains that Alexander has been sacked three times. At Salford, co-owner Gary Neville cited the style of play as a factor in their decision to remove Alexander from his post, with some critical of his cautious approach. It was argued this was borne out in their poor home form.

At Scunthorpe, certain sections of the support blamed a negative team selection as the reason for their play-off semi-final defeat by Millwall. However, Alexander would argue – with good cause – all of his dismissals have been harsh, and that he would have turned things around given time.

The former Scotland international has had plenty of offers from clubs in England in recent months, which is an endorsement of his credentials, but he is said to be looking for a different challenge.

Like many, he views Motherwell’s squad as a good one underperforming and with plenty of potential. He has made a quick impact at every club he has managed, and Motherwell hope – in fact, desperately need – the same again.

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