FORMER Ilkeston Town manager Keith Alexander has died at the age of 53.
Robins fans have been paying tribute to a man who re-shaped the club and brought its first victory over Football League opposition.
Alexander died after seeing his Macclesfield side lose 1-0 at Notts County last night. Several years ago, he had advanced surgery after a brain haemorrhage.
He played for Ilkeston in the 1970s after being spotted playing in a Nottingham league. Striker Alexander moved to Barnet and enjoyed a good career in the lower leagues, once scoring a promotion play-off goal at Wembley.
Alexander returned to the New Manor Ground as manager and remained in the post for four years before moving to Northwich Victoria in 2000.
Former Ilkeston director David Morgan said:"The bloke was wonderful."
Alexander came to the club after it had been saved by businessman Paul Millership, who died three years ago.
Morgan was player-manager of Arnold Town and signed Alexander as a 19-year-old. Later they teamed up again off the field at Ilkeston.
"Paul Millership always said he was the best manager the club ever had. Keith really knew his stuff. Every night he was out watching games and had a dossier of players' names and their abilities, not just in the league but in non-league.
"After he left Ilkeston he carved out a career in the game but this is a very stressful job," added Morgan.
Fan Ged Tatham, 74, said:"We used to chant 'Alexander's Red Hot Army.' He was the best manager we ever had and pulled us out of the doldrums.
"His death is an absolute disaster. What he did for us was wonderful and you can say Alexander's Red Hot Army will never go."
Current Ilkeston manager Kevin Wilson said:"Keith was a lovely, fantastic man, a genuine football man who will be sadly missed.
"It is awful news and is a very big loss to the game."
Alexander took over from Welsh international Leighton James with the club in relegation trouble in the Dr Marten's Premier Division. He could not stave off the drop but they were promoted two seasons later and have rarely looked back.
During his spell in charge, he took a team to Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup and drew, forcing The Iron to come to the New Manor Ground for an awkward replay on a rainy night.
Scunthorpe won that match but next season Carlisle United were knocked out of the FA Cup, becoming Ilkeston's first Football League victims in its history.
Alexander also set up an academy at Ilkeston, working with the South East Derbyshire College. One of the products was striker Francis Green who played in the Football League.
He nearly returned to the Ilkeston manager's job two years ago while working as director of football at Bury Town. But the FA vetoed the move, saying there would be a conflict of interest if he held both posts at the same time.