Preston 1, Sheffield United 0: Basham reveals players held post-match inquest after Blades' Deepdale despair
Chris Basham is Sheffield United's '˜go to man' after a disappointing result. The veritable safe pair of hands capable of toeing the party line and dealing with awkward questions.
So when the midfielder revealed words had been exchanged after Preston North End condemned them to a third straight defeat, it spoke volumes about the emotions swirling around inside the visitors’ dressing room.
“We’ve fronted-up to each other,” Basham admitted.
“We’ve all told each other what we think and given some frank opinions. It’s good that we can do it and that everyone takes it in the right way.
“We all want to best for this club, for the manager, the fans and ourselves. It needed doing.”
United, as Basham later acknowledged, have produced far more listless displays during his three-and-a-half years in South Yorkshire.
But, given their achievements since Chris Wilder’s appointment as manager, the benchmarks have changed. What bothered Wilder was not so much the result - there were, despite his wholly understandable attempt to insist otherwise, a number of contributing factors - rather the compliancy United showed after Jordan Hugill scored the only goal of the game early in the second-half.
Echoing those sentiments, Basham conceded United had yielded far too easily to the will of opponents whose aggression and impetus eventually swung the contest in their favour after an evenly matched first-half.
“We’ve got a great team spirit here,” he said.
“But the gaffer told us beforehand that team spirit is about more than spending time with each other away from the pitch or having the odd night out.
“It’s about helping your mates out when things aren’t going well. He’s right. Yes. we’ve got each other’s backs out there but we should have taken something from that.
“We wanted more, of course, but at the very least that should have ended in a draw.”
Hugill was responsible for ensuring this fixture did not finish all-square when, just before the hour, he met Callum Robinson’s cross and volleyed the ball beyond Simon Moore and into the back of United’s net.
Although the execution was excellent, the simplicity of the centre-forward’s strike did not sit comfortable with either Wilder or, it became apparent afterwards, some of his most senior players.
Nevertheless, with well over a third of the fixture remaining, there was still more than enough time for United, missing four of their most influential performers through injury, illness and suspension, to salvage something from a fixture they had actually controlled during the opening exchanges.
What followed, however, provoked something Basham described as a “frank exchange of views.”
“We’ve all told each other what we think in there,” he continued.
“And, do you know what, when we come back in for training on Monday, we might say it again but explain exactly why we felt the need.
“Nobody will take it the wrong way, we know we’ve all got our best interests at heart. We didn’t give them enough to think about after going behind and that’s the most disappointing thing. That’s not like us.”
“That’s not what we’re about, that’s not what’s got us to where we are,” Basham added.
“Listen, we’re still in a good position and I’ve been through a lot worse times since I’ve been here. The thing is, we’ve set our standards high now.
“We’re in a great position so we need to get back to what we were doing.”
The absence of Paul Coutts and John Fleck, compounded by the loss before kick-off of Mark Duffy and David Brooks, affected United’s rhythm.
But, as Wilder acknowledged afterwards, did not explain why Robinson and Hugill were allowed to operate with relative impunity.
When coaching staff fathom the answer to that question, their findings are unlikely to make pleasant reading for some of those involved although Regan Slater, making his league debut after being summoned from the bench, is exempt from blame.
United could actually have put Preston under the cosh long before Slater’s entrance, when Leon Clarke, who despite being starved of service, saw a shot smothered by Darnell Fisher.
Jack O’Connell went close before Robinson’s influence grew and Paul Gallagher struck the woodwork with a well-taken set-piece.
“The gaffer knows what’s best,” Basham said.
“So we’ll do what he thinks best.”