Sheffield United: Chris Basham explains his plans for Bramall Lane if he is allowed to sign a new contract

Chris Basham has a plan.

Monday, 17th January 2022, 4:30 pm

Whether or not it comes to fruition depends largely upon other people. His agent and Sheffield United’s board of directors to be exact.

But if it does, and the defender ends up scribbling his name across the contract both he and manager Paul Heckingbottom effectively agreed earlier this month, then the club will be investing in the future. Not simply the here and now.

“There’s one aim here and that’s to get back,” Basham says. “Get back to the Premier League and as quickly as possible. I want to be a part of that. If someone comes in though, and they’re better than me, then that’s no problem. What I’ll do, even though I obviously want to be involved, is do my utmost to help them settle in and help them out.”

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Basham hopes to take another step towards a third promotion with a club he admits to “falling in love with” at Preston North End tomorrow night. The rearranged game, only the second Championship fixture Heckingbottom’s side have contested since the end of last month, could see them climb to 11th in the table as they look to recover from Saturday’s defeat by Derby County.

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Four months short of his 34th birthday, Basham is entering the autumn of his career despite insisting he “feels great” and is “playing some of my best football” since joining United eight years ago. Little did he know, after turning his back on Blackpool for a team still languishing in the third tier, that the switch would mark the start of a remarkable and, on occasion, an emotional journey which has seen him become one of Bramall Lane’s most feted players.

With much of the attention at United right now focused on Heckingbottom’s list of wants during the transfer window, Basham knows, whoever walks through the door, could be his eventual successor. With defensive reinforcements the 44-year-old’s top priority, and United’s squad in desperate need of rebalancing, the emphasis is on discovering new talent - either externally or internally, which Heckingbottom’s employers mentioned on countless occasions during November’s media conference called to announce his appointment.

Sheffield United defender Chris Basham with captain and striker Billy Sharp: David Klein / Sportimage

But Basham is convinced there is still a place for the likes of him and other veterans of United’s march through the divisions under Chris Wilder. Many of them are approaching the end of their present deals and Basham, who is also scheduled to become a free agent this summer, hopes they remain to assist him establish an experienced brains trust - a coterie of United legends who, mirroring the way Bayern Munich organise themselves, ensure the values which make a team great are preserved through the generations.

“It’s very important to have the Billy Sharps and the David McGoldriks and the John Egans, to have that continuity.” Basham explains. “I think it’s crucial, in fact, to have that continuity and keep it. Not only for everyone in the dressing room but also, I definitely reckon, for the fans because they know we’ve all bought in. Billy, well they knew that anyway because he’s one of them anyway.”

“I’ve asked him (Heckingbottom) to stay,” he continues, putting the flesh on his vision for United. “He knows what my ambitions are and where my head is at. I’ve asked him if I can stay here and if I can help mould the team - try and bring it on in the future. If you have consistency, in this division you’ll be up there.”

Chris Basham in training ahead of Sheffield United's latest game: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Basham, the longest serving member of Heckingbottom’s squad, has seen United linked with a number of centre-halves since the transfer window reopened. Earlier this term, it appeared he was destined to depart as part of a reprofiling exercise when Slavisa Jokanovic, the 44-year-old’s immediate predecessor, switched formation from a back three to a back four. But after taking charge in November, Heckingbottom’s decision to revert to a strategy similar to the one Wilder employed has seen Basham fall back into favour.

“When Paul came in, he knew how to put it across to the team,” Basham says, stressing he “got on very well” with Jokanovic and “admired” the Serb’s methods despite spending long periods on the bench. “He has forced that through. Managers in the past knew what Sheffield United needed and it’s something we need. It’s been a kick in the teeth to be honest, not having the games, because we wanted them to carry on.”

Basham was referring to the fact that United’s trip to Pride Park was their first league outing since December 20, when then leaders Fulham were beaten at Craven Cottage. Having adopted an expansive approach to beat Bristol City and Cardiff City en route to west London, United were inevitably required to employ more conservative tactics to combat the threat posed by Aleksandar Mitrovic and Harry Wilson. But Basham is convinced that, by keeping a clean sheet against opponents who have scored seven times in a match twice this term, United proved two important points. First, that the mental scars they suffered en route to relegation last season have now healed and, just as importantly, the spirit of previous promotion winning campaigns is still alive behind the scenes.

Jayden Bogle, Chris Basham and John Egan during Sheffield United's defeat at Derby County: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“I’m buzzing about the place to be honest,” he admits. “And I want to stay a part of things here because of that. It’s a special place that I’ve really bought into and so have my family. There’s lots of us here, many of us from away, who will tell you the same thing. For me, that’s really important.”