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Game pays tribute to 'gentleman' Alexander

First black manager in league hailed as 'pioneering figure' in anti-racism fight

Keith Alexander's family will be asked to decide whether Macclesfield's League Two match at Hereford on Saturday should go ahead following his shock death. The 53-year-old manager passed away just hours after the club's match at Notts County on Tuesday night. He collapsed at his home in Lincoln and later died, although the exact cause of his death has not been disclosed.

The Macclesfield chairman, Mike Rance, has spoken to Hereford counterpart Graham Turner about Saturday's match at Edgar Street. Rance said: "Graham knew Keith very well and we've both agreed that Keith's family should be the key arbiters in deciding whether Saturday's match should go ahead. The players are back in tomorrow and, after speaking to Keith's wife Helen, we expect a decision will be made in the next 24 hours."

Alexander was universally respected throughout football but his health problems dated back to November 2003, when he suffered a brain aneurysm. More recently, a prolonged bout of hiccups forced him to take several days off work but there was no apparent sign of distress as he travelled back to Lincoln on Tuesday night.

Macclesfield midfielder Richard Butcher caught a lift back to Lincoln with Alexander and said: "He dropped me back at my car at about 11pm last night and he was fine. We were chatting and laughing, and I've been spending a lot of time travelling with the gaffer recently because we both live in Lincoln.

"For me, I've lost not just a manager but a friend. I'm absolutely devastated because he was a top bloke."

Many tributes have been paid to Alexander, who became the first black manager in English football when he took charge of Lincoln City in 1993 for the first of his two spells at the club. Nottingham-born Alexander led Lincoln to four consecutive play-off appearances between 2002 and 2006 and his death leaves MK Dons manager Paul Ince as the only black manager in English football.

Television pundit and former manager Chris Kamara said Alexander "never beat the racism drum", although he often spoke at forums organised by Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion campaign. Piara Powar, director for Kick It Out, said: "Keith was a pioneering figure whose talent spoke for itself. He was an unstinting supporter of equality in the game, and most importantly a role model for aspiring coaches and managers, whatever their racial background."

Assistant manager Gary Simpson has been placed in charge of first-team affairs at Moss Rose. Simpson said: "Keith was a role model and an inspiration for the black community in a profession that is so short-lived, especially in the lower leagues. He was a larger-than-life character and will be sorely missed."

League Managers' Association chief executive Richard Bevan said: "Keith was an active member of the LMA and our projects with The Prince's Trust in particular. Nobody would deny that Keith knew just about all there is to know about managing football clubs on a low budget. He was a champion of civil rights and equality issues and was also active in the Black Coaches Association."

Alexander had two stints in charge of Lincoln and spells at Ilkeston Town, Northwich, Peterborough and Bury before his appointment at Macclesfield in February 2008. Rance added: "Keith was perfect for a club like ours. He was totally pragmatic about the constraints of managing in League Two. He was a splendid man, a real gentleman and an absolute privilege to work with."

Both England's senior squad and the under-21s wore black armbands in their games last night as a mark of respect to Alexander.

Keith Alexander: Life and times

Born 14 November 1956, Nottingham

Playing career

A centre-forward, Alexander appeared for a host of lower league clubs, starting with Notts County in 1974. Among others, he also represented Stamford (whom he scored for at Wembley in an FA Vase win in 1980), Grimsby, Stockport, Lincoln City and Mansfield. He won three caps for St Lucia.

Managerial career

Alexander became the first black professional manager when taking the reigns at Lincoln in 1993. He also managed Ilkeston, Northwich and Peterborough before taking over at Macclesfield in February 2008.