Saturday’s much-improved performance in the 2-0 win over a frankly awful Hull City team confirmed that Graham Alexander is the key to the Clarets winning football matches.

It’s long been suspected that the veteran Scot is the crucial man in Owen Coyle’s arsenal, and his brace and inspirational showing in the centre of the park gave Burnley the lift they needed after two disappointing defeats against Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic.

Alexander has often looked off the pace this season and with Chris McCann missing for three months with a knee injury, the hole in the Clarets midfield has been all too obvious, especially away from home, where Burnley are pointless after five matches.

But the 38-year-old rolled back the years on Saturday by striding forward to thump home the crucial second goal to seal the three points, after despatching a penalty in trademark straight-run style in the first half.

Alexander was making his 100th appearance for the Clarets and staggeringly he has missed only one league match – through suspension – since being signed by Steve Cotterill in August 2007. The fact that he’s still able to play ninety minutes every week is testament Alexander’s utmost professionalism and his desire to prolong his playing career for as long as possible.

Players are sometimes too keen to sit back on the bench and relax for their final years in the game, but Alexander is a shining light to any players in their mid to late thirties that still have Premier League aspirations.

Often this season he has seemed off the pace, but it’s important to cut him some slack as this is his first experience of top flight football, after twenty years as a professional. And some of the players that have outplayed Alexander, the oldest player in the Premier League this season, have made fools of players with far bigger reputations than the driven Scot.

Burnley have played 4-5-1 throughout the season, partly to accommodate Alexander’s lack of mobility, and at times it hasn’t paid off with quality players like Yossi Benayoun, who scored a hat-trick in Liverpool’s 4-0 demolition of the Clarets, finding room too easily as they manipulate the ball comfortably around the Clarets’ static midfield.

That Burnley have racked up five wins from six home games is already an astonishing statistic. But when you consider that the three central midfielders of late have been a converted right-back (Alexander) a defender moved forward (Bikey) and a winger playing inside (Elliott) it makes Burnley’s presence in the top half of the Premier League table even more remarkable.

How far Coyle could take this team if he had McCann available and one more quality midfield player is a mouth-watering thought. Hopefully, in time, Kevin McDonald can become that man.

But for now, Alexander retains his rightful place as the most important man in the Clarets’ midfield, even the whole team. Long live the King.

This article was written for FansOnline Burnley.

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