Sheffield United: Chris Basham says David Brooks' return to action could not have come at a better time
He is not the first person to draw the comparison.
Tony Currie, previously of Sheffield United and England, did the same several months ago.
So when Chris Basham insists David Brooks reminds him of another Wales player, your first reaction is to listen. Not laugh or wonder if he has lost his marbles.
“The way he moves is the same as Gareth Bale. They both seem to beat people so effortlessly. Obviously they’re not on the same level in the game. But when it comes to that, there’s a similarity there.”
Although he is careful to distinguish between achievement and aesthetics, that Basham feels comfortable even mentioning them in the same breath reveals plenty about Brooks’ potential. It speaks volumes about his character too. Basham, one of the most level-headed members of United’s first team squad, knows plenty of young talents eventually vanish without trace. But, rather than become distracted, conceited or worse still complacement, he believes Brooks will be inspired by the parallels. Especially, until receiving the all-clear last week, seeing his progress interrupted by glandular fever.
“I get the impression he has been missing playing football a lot,” Basham continues. “He has been in training but there is nothing worse than missing playing. When he first came back, he was a little bit sleepy at times which is only to be expected. But he’s made such an impact when he has been playing that we’ve definitely missed him.”
Brooks’ return to action comes, as Basham acknowledges, at an opportune moment for United. Eighth in the Championship table ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Queens Park Rangers, they enter the 32nd game of a 46 match season knowing a win will move them to within a point of the play-off positions. Brooks, who appeared as a second-half substitute during Friday’s FA Cup defeat at Leicester City, is expected to make only the 33rd outing of his senior career against Ian Holloway’s side. Unlike Bale, the 20-year-old could hardly be described as a household name. But, behind the scenes at Bramall Lane, he is a mighty big noise.
“Brooksy’s been a breath of fresh air,” Basham says, before making an admission. “We were talking in pre-season that we need to play the team around David Brooks. Last year, he was involved with us and we knew it wouldn’t be long until he stepped up permanently.
“Brooksy is someone I first became aware of when Nigel Adkins was in charge. I could see straight away he had something.”
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Chris Wilder was clearly of the same opinion after cancelling a proposed loan move to Chesterfield. Likewise, as recent caps against France and Panama demonstrate, Chris Coleman; who selected Brooks and Bale in his final two squads before resigning as Wales manager.
“When the gaffer stops a loan deal going through, that when you know a player is there or thereabouts,” Basham explains. “When he’s come on, he’s been outstanding. I felt he would rip League Two up. But he has been involved with us all the time. He is great around the group and we want him to start or come on.”
Brooks has a long way to go before he emulates Bale’s achievements. After all, beyond the confines of Bramall Lane, winning a Steel City derby is nothing compared to lifting the Champions League with Real Madrid. Nevertheless, his purpose, poise and youthful exuberance could prove crucial as United look to reclaim a top six place. The visit of Ian Holloway’s side, who triumphed 1-0 at Loftus Road four months ago, is the first of what Wilder has described as “15 cup finals” following the recent win over Leeds.
“Brooksy coming in with 15 games to go means it is exciting times for everyone,” Basham, a member of last season’s promotion winning team, says. “A big period. There is a positive attitude in the squad.
“When Leeds scored to make it 1-1, we could have thought, ‘Oh, here we go’. But our thinking was to go out and get the lead back. We had something similar at the end of last season in League One. Some might have expected us to take the foot of the gas but we didn’t, we wanted more. The gaffer set us the 100 points target and we all jumped on that. And got there. It meant we stormed the league.”
Rangers make the journey north languishing in 15th but, as United discovered earlier this term, are dangerous opponents.
“We just try to deal with each game as it comes and focus on performing at our highest. If we do that, if we create chances, then we’ll give ourselves a chance.”