I used to hate Graham Alexander.
When I say hate, I mean the immoderate pantomime loathing reserved for players who associate themselves with Preston North End. You know, the type that makes you shout out things like “Alexander you knob” every time he ran by.
But “Grezza” wasn’t just another Preston player; he was North End’s captain supreme and goalscoring fullback.
He chose Deepdale over Turf Moor in 1999 and then went on to become epitome of everything that was good about Preston who were consistently just doing a little bit better than us.
They finished Champions of Division Two as we snatched second place on the last day of the 1999/2000 season and from then on finished higher than us in the Championship table more often than not.
During that nine year spell Alexander became Preston’s longest serving player and bagged 52 goals.
Admit it; you hated him too didn’t you?
But now I love Graham Alexander.
When I say love, I mean as far as one heterosexual man can go without crossing the great big pink line. You know, the firm gentleman’s handshake, the purchasing of a pint and then maybe a quick kiss on the cheek?
My feelings changed on one Wednesday late in August 2007 when the Scottish International turned up at Turf Moor having signed a two year contract.
Two hundred thousand pounds was paid to Preston for his services. At the time it was seen more as getting one over on our rivals, a bit like having it off with Jordan and then sending Peter Andre the video. It was priceless fun, excuse the pun.
“A captain, a leader and a winner” is how Steve Cotterill described the club’s newest incumbent of the number 2 shirt.
And he brought all that and more. Arguably the best of Cotterill’s signings (probably on a par with Robbie Blake coming back to the Turf) Alexander was eventually utilised fully by Owen Coyle in the centre of the park and added grit, steel and composure to the Clarets midfield.
During our promotion winning season Alexander was exceptional, perfecting the holding role and playing almost every minute of every game. The thirty seven year old was able to break up play and let players like Chris McCann and Wade Elliot get forward and express themselves.
If that wasn’t enough the world’s greatest penalty taker bagged a total of ten goals, mostly from the spot, including a key spot kick in the first leg against Reading at the Turf.
A true professional, Alexander is the perfect example of what makes a great Scottish International- he’s English.
Our promotion at Wembley ended a personal hoodoo for Alexander, it was seventh time lucky for him in May as he was finally promoted through the playoffs following three semi final and three final defeats.
He also managed to end that irritating curse I mentioned earlier, as it is now Burnley that are doing better than Preston. And not just slightly better either.
Now having signed a new one year deal at the club, Alexander’s experience will once again be vital next season.
After everything we’ve been through during our blossoming love affair over the last two seasons it looks like our relationship is ready to go to the next level; from the chastity ringed Championship to the erotically charged Premier League.