A product of West Ham United’s youth setup, Gary Alexander spent time at a number of Football League clubs including Exeter City, Swindon Town and Hull City, before arriving at Brentford in August 2010.
One of the first names on the teamsheet during the next two seasons, he would go on to make 70 appearances for The Bees for an impressive return of 26 goals.
Still in football today, he currently operates as Player-Manager at Greenwich Borough in the Isthmian League South Division.
First seen in BEES matchday programme, we speak to Gary about his time in West London.
Time you signed an autograph
I don’t know to be honest! I always dreamed of becoming a footballer, so if somebody asked me to sign an autograph I never wanted to turn them down. It’s a good feeling as you really start to feel like a professional. I never really practiced, I just went with my natural signature and, as I’m not the best writer, it’s a bit of a scribble!
Time you realised you could make a career out of football
I never thought I would to be honest – I played Sunday League football right up to the age of 17. I had just left school and applied to become a Postman when, after a Sunday morning cup final, a scout came up to me and asked if I wanted a trial at West Ham. I did that and played in a trial game, but I had to come off early with stitches. Obviously, I was thinking it wasn’t going to happen for me, but afterwards I was told that Harry Redknapp had seen the game and wanted to make me a scholar, which was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down!
My first room-mate was Charlie MacDonald. I knew him as a kid, growing up around Elephant and Castle, so we’ve been mates for a long time. I actually manage him at the moment at Greenwich Borough. He’s kept himself fit, or fitter than me at least, and is still scoring goals. I also roomed with Ben Hamer, who was always a good craic and up to mischief. I’ll never forget one occasion when he went down to Karleigh Osborne and set off a fire extinguisher while he was lying in bed! I don’t think Karleigh was too pleased, but we found it funny.
Game you played in for Brentford
For me, there are three games that stand out most. One of the best matches I ever played in was probably against MK Dons. We went 3-0 down, but came back to draw 3-3. We also knocked Everton out of the Carling Cup; I scored that night and we went on to win on penalties. The last one came against Wycombe Wanderers where I scored three. I was already on a good run of form, but it’s always nice to get a hat-trick!
Moment as a Brentford player
If I was being selfish, I’d say it was leading the club out at Wembley. Obviously, Kevin O’Connor is my friend, but he didn’t start that day which meant that I got the opportunity to wear the armband and lead the side out. You never ever expect to captain a team at Wembley, so that is something that will live with me for the rest of my days.
Player you faced during your time at Brentford
It would have to be from one of our cup runs, playing Everton and other big clubs. During those games, we came up against players like Phil Neville, Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka, which made me realise what it takes to play at the highest level.
Moment as a Brentford player
It would have to be when my time came to an end, and the way in which it ended. A lot of people speculated as to my reasons for going to Crawley Town, but in reality I took less money to sign a two-year contract. I have four children and Brentford were only offering me a single year at the time, when I felt I deserved at least two, having scored 14 goals in 22 appearances during the previous season. Crawley offered me a two-year contract on less money, but it was something I had to do for the kids. I see it as my worst moment because people think I left for the money, and it was totally the opposite! I did have a little fall out with Uwe Rösler, but we’ve since seen each other and shaken hands.
Thing you had to do in training
Towards the end of my career at Brentford things had started to change with sports scientists playing a bigger role. They do a great job, but when you haven’t done it for most of your career it’s a bit difficult. I didn’t enjoy it; I used to try to stick with what I had always done in the 15 or 16 years before that, but, if you look at footballers’ bodies nowadays, they are all machines, so it obviously does work! In the long run, I would definitely say that it helped me to prolong my career.
Telling off from a manager
It probably came from Dean Smith when we were both at Leyton Orient. We went in for half-time and he had a few harsh words for me, and I gave it back to him. He told me that I had ten minutes after the break to liven up or I’d be off, so I decided that I’d go out and show him. We ended up turning the game around and I scored two goals! I was lucky enough to play alongside Dean as well, and I have the utmost respect for him as a player and a coach.
For exclusive news, views and interviews, pick up a copy of BEES every home matchday for just £3.50.