As a player he played well over 1000 professional matches. But now heading into his third month in his new role as Preston North End’s Head of Youth, Graham Alexander is hoping that his know-how gleaned from 24 years as a player will benefit the Clubs latest crop of Apprentice players.
But while the 40-year old Scot has collected vast experience during a playing career that included stints at Scunthorpe United, Luton Town, Burnley and two spells at North End as well as 40 international caps, he is still familiarising himself with his new job in hand.
“I sat down with the staff at the start of the season, having not been involved with a youth-team since I was a youth team player meant I had to get an idea of what was expected of them (the players),” Alexander told North End’s match-day programme, ‘The One and Only’.
“I spoke to people in other Clubs in a similar role and I wanted to get it as near to the first-team as possible. There is no point in me looking after them for two years and then when they get to the Manager’s first-team squad, it is a big shock to them.”
“I try to treat them as young professionals, give them that trust and respect and then if they do make the grade it will be a seamless transition and not a shock to the system.”
“I do demand a lot from them, I push them as far as they can go and maybe a little further than they think they can go and hopefully over two years they improve.”
“I personally have looked in the past at the Manager’s who have pushed me and not thought great of them, but when they’ve left and you realise how far they’ve taken you as a player, then you respect what they did for you.”
“It is not about getting on as mates for two years it is about being pushed to your limits. I don’t want to be the players’ best mate, all the staff are there to help them but I am going to push them.”
As well as being pushed on the training ground Alexander is keen to see the same efforts replicated in the classroom when his players start back at College this week:
“They do a full day and a half day at College which is very important to them. Everyone will tell you the statistics about how many make the grade.”
“Even at this level, coming through and getting a professional contract and having a career after that is quite tough, so they need to work hard in College and commit to it, to make sure they have the best chance of succeeding with both their education and football.”