Sheffield United: 'Chris Wilder is his own man' says Dave Bassett as he rejects suggestions he is a mentor to current Blades boss
The two worked together during one of the most successful periods in Sheffield United's history, so it should come as no surprise that many who worked with both Dave Bassett and Chris Wilder have noted the similarities between the pair.
The no-nonsense, unswervingly-honest approach; the promotion of the group over the individual. And even, although Bassett's detractors would be loath to admit it, the tactical innovation.
The two men who play the connection down more than any other are the two men involved themselves. Wilder is his own man, of that there can be no doubt, and no Bassett clone. Bassett, too, is quick to play down suggestions that he is a 'mentor' figure to the current Blades manager.
But the two remain close, and Wilder occasionally leans on his old boss for advice; most notably before United's trip up the M1 to Leeds towards the back end of last season. The two famous old Yorkshire clubs were vying for promotion to the Premier League and the psychological war was almost as intense as the on-field one.
Bassett reminded Wilder of the time the pair went with United to Elland Road and lost 4-0, only to secure promotion at the end of the season. Almost three decades later Chris Basham's winner gave the Blades the edge, and Wilder and Co. ended up comfortably striding over the line in the race for second place.
Bassett, who guided United into the second tier in 1988/89 before repeating the feat and reaching Division One a year later, was back in the Steel City he still feels is his 'home' on Monday as a guest of local journalist and broadcaster Alan Biggs, conducting his latest 'Biggs Bar' event at Omega at Abbeydale.
Funny, engaging and as sharp as ever, even at 75, Bassett said of Wilder: "I'm certainly not a mentor to him. I know and like Chris... he rang me when he was at Halifax all those years ago and they were going into administration.
"And then when he went to Oxford, I used to go and watch them a lot and when they reached the play-off final, he invited me to the hotel the night before to talk to the players.
"He phoned me just before that Leeds game to talk about the psychology side of things... sometimes, I can speak to him two or three times and then not hear from him for six months.
"But I'm there if he wants me. He certainly doesn't owe me anything. I want him to do well and I recommended him for the United job twice. Eventually, we got there and I'm delighted to see him do so well."
If aspects of Bassett's time at Bramall Lane were fairytale-esque, history will also look incredibly favourably on Wilder's time in charge of his boyhood club. A record-breaking 100 points brought the League One title in his first season in charge, before beating the odds to take a group consisting largely of the same players into the Premier League two years later.
"Terrific times," is Bassett's summation of Wilder's time in charge so far, in his distinctive Cockney twang.
"He's done a great job and it's exciting to see. I went to watch them at Chelsea and Watford and the boys are doing well, with a good spirit. I'm confident they'll stay in the Premier League and that'll be good for the club, allowing them to go from strength to strength.
"To be fair, they spent more in the summer than I thought they would... Oli McBurnie for £20m, buying Callum Robinson and Lys Mousset and Luke Freeman. But of the players he already has, John Fleck has stepped up and Enda Stevens, I like him. He's a good player.
"Chris Basham at the back, John Egan, Jack O'Connell... they've all settled in nicely and look comfortable.
"They look as good as a lot of other Premier League players. Manchester City and Liverpool may look for a different type of player but a lot of teams in the Premier League, I think United's players could fit into quite nicely."
Wilder's comments about his goalkeeper Dean Henderson recently, following his error at home to Liverpool, could also have been torn from the Bassett playbook. Wilder insisted his goalkeeper had 'to be better' if he wants to fulfil his ambition of being England's No.1 goalkeeper in the future. A number of media commentators thought he had been unduly harsh on Henderson. The goalkeeper's reaction - two superb saves in his next game, away at Watford - suggested Wilder had not.
"Chris is his own man and he's honest," Bassett added. "He's learned from different managers he's played under during his career and put his own stamp on it. Alan Knill has come through as well and is a good lad.
"I like what Chris has to say. I thought his comments about Henderson were right; they weren't insulting. It's a fact of life. He's dropped a clanger and if he wants to get to the top and play for England... if you make a few errors, look at someone like Rob Green. There you go, son... you're out."
Dave Bassett was speaking at an event at Omega Abbeydale. Click here for details of Alan Biggs’ future Biggs Bar evenings.