This is one of those articles you’ll either love, or hate. I’m being honest with you from the start, it’s a slideshow type article but there’s plenty of thought gone into it.
Before I continue, the small amount of money the site does make is boosted by the odd article like this. You’ll not see them every day, but they are useful in that respect. I’m using that wisely too, the last two months money has just gone towards joining up with ‘The Mattadores’, sponsoring Matt Rhead home and away. I try not to be click bait, despite criticism from some quarters, but what little I do see ends up with the club, one way or another.
Anyway, enough of justifying myself to the handful of people who see fit to give me a hard time. I’ve been thinking about the Keith-era players, not just the big names but also the smaller, lesser known players who for one reason or another, didn’t make it. I’m fascinated by the different approaches teams have, the different patterns and styles of play that make up a side and how perhaps some players who didn’t thrive in one style could do much better in another.
Keith Alexander built a side that I will always remember fondly. The 2002/03 season took us from the brink of despair to the edge of joy. It was markedly different to Danny’s National League winning season, nothing was expected of us and yet we fought, scrapped and eventually bullied our way to the play-off final. Whilst Danny gave us our first Wembley appearance, Keith delivered our first national stadium appearance.
To compare the squads and achievements isn’t fair on either, although I believe I did it once or twice before. There’s so much context to be taken into account. Danny seemingly had more funds, Keith dipped lower than the Conference for most of his recruits following administration. The National league only had one automatic promotion spot, making it much harder to be a success, but Division Three as it were had harder teams throughout. Two great managers a decade and a half apart that made me proud to be an Imp.
Despite both sides being labelled as anti-football, the approach from each was very different. Keith played a more direct long ball, but sought to bring it down in the final third. He used Yeo’s pace to get in behind, later relying on the guile of Gary Taylor-Fletcher, but he didn’t seem to have a target man. Sure, the big defenders all had a spell up top, but we didn’t have a Matt Rhead figure.
Danny gets a lot of stick for using Rheady, but certainly in the main there’s more emphasis on wide play. Keith had little time for wingers, the full backs got forward and the centre of the park remained packed with players.
So, which Keith players would have had even better careers had they played under Danny Cowley? Certainly not the likes of Ben Futcher, a limited defender whose apparent lack of ball playing skills would have seen him flop for Danny, but he bagged lots of goals for Keith. Not Simon Yeo either, a quick forward with instinct but stuck for two seasons on and off the bench before his breakthrough campaign.
Here are five players from Keith Alexander’s time that would have fared better under Danny Cowley’s tactics.