GRAHAM Alexander takes on Salford tomorrow for the first time since they sacked him three years ago.

The Bantams boss won promotion from the National League in his first season with the Ammies in 2019 and also led them to the final of the EFL Trophy the following year.

But he was axed just five games into the behind-closed-doors campaign in 2020 – when Salford were still unbeaten in fifth place.

It was a decision that co-owner Gary Neville later admitted was a big mistake.

Here’s what Alexander has to say as he prepares to face his former club at Valley Parade.

How do you look back on your time at Salford?

“I loved it. We won promotion the first year, got to a cup final in the second and then we moved on.

“I still speak to people there and some ex-players who have moved on to different clubs.

“If you have success at a club, you always have long-standing relationships with people that go through the ages.

“I look at that time really fondly because I was treated very well there by supporters, players and staff. But all good things come to an end – that’s football.

“I smile when I think of Salford because I had a good time.”

From the outside, your departure looked incredibly harsh. Did you feel like that or just accepted it comes with the managerial territory?

“It’s a bit of both. It is the territory.

“That’s the one thing I’ve learned really quickly about management. I think I’ve had more clubs in the last five years than I had in 24 years as a player.

“That’s how the game has gone being a coach and a manager.

“I don’t think about it that much. It was three years ago and I’ve been at work since then.

“I don’t revisit the past. I don’t see the point.

“It was a hurtful event at the time. It’s not nice to happen to any working person losing their job, not just in football.

“We all have a purpose and want to provide for our families.

“I think we’re well aware of the risks and pitfalls of management. Some of them make sense, some of them don’t.

“Pep Guardiola could get sacked tomorrow and I’d just shrug my shoulders and go, ‘that’s football’. That’s how it has gone for me.

“But I don’t spend my days thinking about it. I spend them thinking how to enjoy my job and create a winning team.

“I want to enjoy football and not get dragged into things that are unsavoury. I try to focus on the positive side of things.

“It was just one of those things. It wasn’t the first kick in the whatsits in my career and I’m sure it won’t be the last.”

What did you think when you heard Gary Neville saying you should never have left?

“I thought it was very honest from Gary and nice to hear. I did feel like that at the time, I’m not going to lie.

“I wouldn’t say it made a significant difference to what I thought.

“Owners, chairmen and managers are in a role of responsibility and you have to make decisions. You’re not going to make them all right.

“I don’t make all the right decisions all the time. I know there are players I’ve let go or signed and you look back and think that was possibly a mistake.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Gary Neville admitted Salford were wrong to sack Graham AlexanderGary Neville admitted Salford were wrong to sack Graham Alexander (Image: PA)

“We don’t want to make mistakes but if you never admit to them or think your life’s going to be perfect, you’re going to be frozen by not making decisions.

“Decisions are made day in, day out in football.

“I don’t hold anything against anybody. I see why he did it and it might have felt right at that time for both parties.

“It’s only in hindsight that you look back and go, ‘was it right or wrong’?

“I remember when he said it and I didn’t know what to think, to be honest.”

Knowing what you know now, would that have made you think twice about going into management?

“No, I’d have probably thought I’d be the one to buck the trend!

“We’ve all got that thing inside us where we know it happens to everyone else but it won’t happen to me.

“You have to feel like that a little bit. It’s not feeling invincible but having that confidence in yourself that you can be good at your job.

“I felt I could be good as a coach, because that’s what I first set out to do. It wasn’t to manage, it was to coach.

“I really want to coach football and players and the management side of it came to me quite early and unexpectedly at the time.

“It was an opportunity to throw myself into. We had success and it went from there.

“I choose to be in this job. Nobody has got a gun to my head forcing me to do it.

“I could walk away if I wanted to but I don’t want to. I want to enjoy the sport I’ve loved since I was seven or eight.”

Will it feel any different tomorrow being up against Salford?

“I’ve been in professional football since 1988. I’ve been involved in 1,500 games as a player and a manager.

“I can assure you that I’ve wanted to beat every opponent I’ve played in those games, regardless of any history or not.

“You do become professionalised after so many years in the game. You want to do well in every game.

“I would expect nobody to see a difference in how I approach the game, prepare for the game or communicate during the game or anything like that.

“I want to win every time I represent my club.

“If you’ve been in the game long enough, it’s going to come around. There are only so many clubs in one country so you’re going to come up against them at some point.

“I think I found it difficult when I played against former clubs because I tended to spend a lot of time at each of them.

“But maybe I’ve got a different mentality on this side of the line."