He spent his career in the Football League scoring goals for the likes of Leyton Orient and Millwall, but now Gary Alexander has another goal in sight.

Now a player-manager in the Ryman League, Alexander is looking to lead Greenwich Borough to another promotion and continuing their rise up the football pyramid.

The thirty seven year old may well be in the twilight of his playing career but his managerial career is off to a positive start.

After leading the Borough out of the Southern Counties East League, they now sit top of the Ryman League Division One South table.

The club, famous for giving Arsenal legend Ian Wright his first game in non-league football, sit a point clear of second placed Dorking Wanderers ahead of a trip to third placed Hythe Town on Saturday.

And far from shying away from the challenge of securing consecutive promotions, although he did concede that “it won’t be easy”.

“Promotion is an aim but there are some big clubs, with big budgets in the league” said Alexander.

“We have put ourselves up there, and we are in with a chance, so why can’t we do this?

“We want to climb the leagues as much as possible and we want to be well-known in our community.

“The aim is to develop this club, to get kids in from the streets and into our academy.

“We are growing as a club and we can do that by moving higher up the pyramid but it won’t be easy”

Life higher up the pyramid is something Alexander is used to.
alexander millwall

His playing career may well be coming to a close as he focuses on life in the dugout but that doesn’t stop him reflecting on some notable highs in his time on the pitch.

“I scored important goals and people will point to the goals at Wembley for Millwall, but I can’t forget we lost that day.

“The goals at Wembley will always stand out because it’s a boyhood dream to do that.

“I had some good times, there was surviving with AFC Wimbledon on the last day of the season.

“You look at where they are now, I played a part in that and I am proud to have done so.

“There were promotions with Millwall and Leyton Orient too, they were great times.

“I enjoyed my time with Crawley too and they were developing as a club at the time.

“But now I want to focus on working on the sidelines, working as a manager and doing what I can to make this club successful”

Alexander has called upon former team mates to help boost his squad, with former Football League players likes Peter Sweeney and Charlie MacDonald (pictured left) joining the club.

Former Charlton Athletic midfielder Bradley Pritchard was another former pro that has joined the club, making his debut in a 3-0 win over East Grinstead Town in early September.

That signing was another down to Alexander’s contacts within the game.

Although some may see it as a challenge to blend players used to life higher up the football pyramid, Alexander admitted that having experienced former pros around has enhanced the team spirit in his dressing room.

greenwich boroghHe said “The likes of (Peter) Sweeney was an old team mate, (Charlie) MacDonald was another and they bring experience, the other lads bounce off them.

“I was given a heads-up on Bradley Pritchard. Someone said he was going into work but wanted to keep playing football, we were lucky to get him in.

“They are brilliant in the dressing room, they play their part in a great team spirit.

“To win nine games in a row, at any level, is a big achievement and that is down to the spirit we have”

Alexander began his football career in 1998 as a junior at West Ham United and went on to spend fifteen years as a professional within the game.

Spells with Hull City, Leyton Orient and Millwall saw the Lambeth-born striker achieve some notable highs.

He also worked under a number of managers he believes he can take inspiration from as he takes his first steps in management.

“You try and bounce off all of your former managers and do things they used to do in training. Things that worked for the players, things that you enjoyed doing and got the most out of.

“We try to work in ways they have worked in.

This is people like Kenny Jackett, Uwe Rosler and Brian Little, these are big names and talented managers, so you have to learn from them.

“They were fantastic and if I can take a little bit from each of them, maybe I can give myself more of a chance of progressing in my managerial career”

A loan spell with AFC Wimbledon during the 2012/13 season saw Alexander cross paths with another manager, and indeed a club, that he believes the can learn from.

The Dons made their way through the non-league pyramid after being formed by supporters disillusioned at the Football Association decision to allow Wimbledon FC – now called MK Dons – to move fifty six miles North to Milton Keynes.

Since the formation of AFC Wimbledon, progress has been rapid.

A rise through the league pyramid started in the Combined Counties League, with the clubardleyachieving Football League status in 2011, just nine years and five promotions after their formation.

That league status was under threat in 2013 as Alexander was brought to the club by then-Dons’ manager Neal Ardley.

He played a part in their survival thanks to a win over Fleetwood Town and since then they haven’t looked back, gaining promotion to English Football’s third tier last season.

Another notable landmark was hit this season as they passed MK Dons in the league standings for the first time in their history.

Currently they sit thirteen places and seven points above the club that inspired their formation.

But it is their rise up the pyramid, and the managerial skills of Ardley, that Alexander is seeking to replicate with Greenwich Borough.

“I look at Neal Ardley at AFC Wimbledon, what he has acheived in his first coaching role there.

They were a similar size to use and you look at where they are now.

“Neal is doing a great job there, he is a very talented coach and manager and our chairman wants to take us through the leagues so they can be our inspiration.

“If they can do it, why can’t we?”

Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Main Image: Simon O’Connor
Other Images: www.actionimages.com

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