By Tony Leighton
He ended his long playing career on a spectacular note, now former full-back Graham Alexander wants to begin life as a manager in similar style.
The Capital One Credit to the Game award recipient at last week's Football League Awards ceremony, who played an incredible 1,023 games in a four-club playing career, has stepped into his first managerial role at Fleetwood Town.
Twenty games down the line from taking charge at the Cod Army's Highbury Stadium in December, Alexander's team are sitting just below the npower League 2 Play-Off places with six matches of the season remaining.
And if he can conjure up a last day of the campaign for Fleetwood like the one on which he ended his playing days, the 41-year-old will be more than happy.
On April 28th last year Alexander, on as a late substitute in Preston North End's home game against Charlton Athletic, hit a stoppage time equaliser from a 20 yard free-kick with what was his final kick as a professional footballer.
"I guess you'd say that was quite a way to end a career," the former Scunthorpe United, Luton Town, Burnley and Scotland player told football-league.co.uk.
"I'd gone on as sub just to get a couple of tackles in, make a few passes and say goodbye to the fans. It was one last day in the sun at the end of my career.
"But then to score a goal with my very last touch of the ball was incredible - and I knew at that moment that I'd made the right decision to retire.
"I'd been thinking about it for 12 months and at the age of 40 I couldn't have gone on much longer anyway. So I finished on a good note at a club I love.
"Preston had also given me the chance to go into coaching, and to stay involved with the club on that side was an opportunity I was delighted to take."
Alexander took charge of the youth team, though he had already had a taste of management having been North End's player-caretaker boss for a month, along with David Unsworth, following the sacking of Phil Brown in December 2011.
So when Fleetwood came along with the chance of a first crack at full-time management, he was more than keen to step into the Highbury hot seat.
"Being in charge of the Preston youth team was fulfilling for me," said Alexander, "but after having the privilege of managing the first team for five games last season I'd thought to myself, 'this is me, I want to be a manager.'
"So when I was given the opportunity to talk to Fleetwood I felt I had to take the chance I was being given, even though it was a wrench to leave Preston."
Three and a half months after taking charge Alexander's team are hopeful of what would be a second successive promotion after last year's climb from the Blue Square Premier had given the club Football League status for the first time.
If they can come through a testing Easter weekend, during which they face top of the table Gillingham and Play-Off rivals Southend United, with maximum points then they will be well positioned to go on and finish the season in the top seven.
Alexander said: "We are one of five or six teams thinking that a consistent run between now and the end of the season could earn a place in the Play-Offs.
"We've got a really tough weekend against two teams who'll want to win just as much as we do, but we have to take the points to ensure we stay in contention."
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