James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Why Chris Basham is an emblem of this history-making group
So high are the standards Sheffield United have set this season, choosing a player of the year at The Star's annual awards ceremony proved a more arduous task than marking Billy Sharp or deciphering John Fleck's Glaswegian brouge.
How do you select the stand-out performer in a squad which has won promotion to the Premier League, scored 76 goals, kept 21 clean sheets and enters Sunday's final match of the campaign in with a realistic shout of winning the Championship title? With great difficulty, that's how. Especially, even though they possess some supremely gifted individuals, as togetherness is their greatest strength. Results since August, over the past 36 months in fact, have served to remind that the size of a transfer fee is not always the best gauge of a footballer's ability.
In the end, as readers of this newspaper or those who followed the live stream of Monday's event on the internet will be aware, I plumped for Chris Basham. Because, although others had also presented compelling cases, yours truly felt he summed-up the spirit which has carried United into the top-flight better than anyone else. As well as, it must be noted, finding himself at the heart of what Wilder likes to call "those big defining moments" such as March's match winning finish over third-placed Leeds.
Basham, in a wholly predictable display of humility after he was presented with his trophy, told me he felt an unworthy recipient. Obviously I disagreed, telling him he had been one of the most consistent performers in an unerringly consistent team across the entirety of the competition. Something a recap of United's individual ratings will bear out.
But, while it is possible to argue the same can also be said of Sharp, something else made Basham the perfect choice to not only celebrate his own achievement but pay tribute to the squad as a whole: The desire to make the most of your talent and a determination to overcome adversity combined with an endearing selflessness.
Basham has seen the good times and the bad times at Bramall Lane, reaching the semi-finals of a major cup competition under Wilder's predecessor Nigel Clough, tasting defeat in the play-offs and experiencing the pain of the now infamous 'Walk of Shame' following his successor Nigel Adkins' final game in charge. Now, as United prepare to wave goodbye to the second tier with a visit to Stoke City, the former midfielder turned marauding centre-half is one of the pivotal cogs in a pioneering system which, only two years after winning League One, has helped United reach the Promised Land. Adapting to the challenge of not only mastering a new position but one as demanding as the role he plays now requires not only athleticism but also a high level of tactical intelligence.
It those reasons, and because his industry masks an array of other more subtle qualities, which make Basham an emblem of this history-making group.