Cotterill salutes career of ‘top, top professional’

Steve Cotterill barks orders from the Burnley dugout back in 2007 with Graham Alexander sits, third left
Steve Cotterill barks orders from the Burnley dugout back in 2007 with Graham Alexander sits, third left
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Steve Cotterill paid tribute to 1,000 game man Graham Alexander and joked: I’ll take the credit for him playing so long!

Cotterill will meet his former player today as Pompey go up against Burnley at Turf Moor.

The Blues boss took Alexander to his old club in 2007 – where he went on to become a key player for the Clarets.

The 39-year-old established himself as a major influence for the side as they got promoted to the Premier League in 2009.

Alexander clocked up his 1,000th career appearance earlier this month under new boss Eddie Howe.

He believes Cotterill played a major role in allowing him to hit that landmark by converting him to a midfielder from a full-back.

Cotterill said: ‘He’s an absolute top, top professional and a great guy.

‘I was kind of hoping his 1,000th game would come up against us.

‘He’s ended up playing it a little earlier than when I wanted.

‘I wanted that to come against us, so there’s a bit of selfish disappointment there. I would have liked to have been there for that.

‘You’d have to know the guy to know that a 1,000 games is not an absolute surprise.

‘He’s a dream to work with. He said a while ago that I prolonged his career by converting him to a midfielder.

‘While I don’t want to take all the credit for doing that I will happily take a bit of it!

‘One thing I will say is he didn’t disappoint me.

‘I’d say he was the catalyst to their promotion, for sure.’

Although Cotterill has missed the star’s 1,000th appearance, today remains a very special day for Alexander.

The day has been renamed ‘Graham Alexander Day’ at Turf Moor, with the midfielder receiving a guard of honour from both teams and a special award prior to kick-off.

Meanwhile, the matchday programme will be dedicated to the Scot. Cotterill, though, explained he had some convincing to do to ensure he could make Alexander a Burnley player.

Shelling out £200,000 for a player who was 36 raised a few eyebrows.

But his displays and longevity have shown that to be money extremely well spent.

Cotterill said: ‘I remember when I was going to sign him from Preston and he wasn’t getting in the team.

‘He was sub there all the time and I got a whisper he wasn’t too happy.

‘So I asked the chairman up there, Barry Kilby, if he could make an enquiry.

‘I think Preston thought they’d cut their losses at 36 and sold him to us for £200,000.

‘When that was agreed, Barry said to me: “Are you sure about this gaffer?”.

‘I told him I was convinced, so we signed him and I waited before the ink was dry on his contract before telling him I was going to play him in midfield and not at full-back anymore!’