In his own words - Chris Basham remembers his iconic goal for Sheffield United against Leeds United
Two years ago today, Sheffield United took a giant leap towards sealing automatic promotion in the teeming West Yorkshire rain with a priceless victory at the home of their big rivals, Leeds United.
With the two Yorkshire clubs locked in a battle for second place in the Championship in 2018/19, United were two points behind second-placed Leeds as they travelled to Elland Road with nine games of the 2018/19 season remaining and, in the build-up, Leeds defender Pontus Jansson described his side’s clash with United as ‘the biggest of their lives’.
It went the way of the Blades, settled by something of an unlikely hero in Chris Basham Pushed into midfield for the game, Basham – even by his own admission – was having a stinker and could have been taken off at half-time.
But he stuck it out and got his reward in the second half, when he latched onto Billy Sharp’s lay-off and struck the ball past Kiko Casilla, sparking jubilant scenes amongst the travelling Blades supporters as Basham slid, Klinsmann-style, in front of them.
The Sky commentary over the top of footage of the goal was iconic, Basham’s celebration was so perfectly captured by United’s official photographer Simon Bellis who was positioned in front of the Blades contingent down the touchline at Elland Road, and ‘Basham’s Arriving’ went down in Bramall Lane folklore.
Casilla, the former Real Madrid goalkeeper, was later sent off for fouling Sharp after suffering a rush of blood to the head after the former Leeds striker had rounded him, and it was advantage Blades in a race for second place that they would eventually win – even if there were plenty more twists and turns to follow as the clubs swapped places several times.
Basham tried, with varying degrees of success, to convince his teammates that he didn’t slip when he hit the ball, but slid to guide it past Casilla, and when the strike later won United’s goal of the season award, United’s head of media Kevin Cookson joked with Basham that it was the first tackle to ever win the award. Basham had earlier missed a glorious chance at the end of the first half, and rated his performance before the goal as “2/10”.
Ollie Norwood was later asked if he had any doubts when the ball fell to Basham, at such a pivotal moment in such a seismic game. “Yeah!” joked Norwood. “But he was incredible all season. What a player and what a person. I was thinking when it broke to him: ‘Please Bash, just score’. We all thought he'd slipped but he told us afterwards, ‘I slid to draw it out of the 'keeper's reach!’ If anyone deserved to score that goal, for the service he’s given to the club, it’s Bash. And it was a good slide tackle!”
Basham spoke about the Leeds goal in the book ‘We’re not going to Wembley’, the story of United’s 2018/19 promotion season. Here are his memories of that game, in his own words…
I remember the build-up was like it was the biggest game ever. I normally try to keep myself settled on social media before games but I couldn't get off it in the week before we went to Elland Road. It was lashing down with rain and an early kick-off, and I didn't enjoy the first half at all. I struggled and they're a really good team, but in the second half, we grew. The gaffer gave us belief at half-time, saying we just had to keep plugging away and we'd get the goal. Then Billy passed it to me and the rest is history, really! It was certainly up there with the moment of the season, for me. The aftermath was huge and the fans seemed to have the best day ever.
I had a chance in the first half but screwed it up, just before the half-time whistle, and this time I thought 'just hit it as hard and low as you can'. And if I had to slide to go with the ball, then so be it. I didn't slip, but I did slide with it! It nestled lovely in the bottom corner, and then my emotions went. Cheeks puffed out, slide on my front. I must have watched that goal about a million times since! And I bet every United fan did as well.
I did the Klinsmann-style dive a few seasons before when I scored away at Bradford. It was a bit surreal to be honest, to score that goal, and it's hard to describe the feelings and emotions in words. If you could bottle them, I'd be sitting on a yacht in Marbella I think!
You can't reach that pinnacle anywhere else. Especially because I'd come from a two or three out of 10 in the first half, to making history in the second. I came from root bottom, not enjoying the game at all, to that ecstasy. It all turned around so quickly. Normally I can settle myself down in games and be a solid seven or eight out of ten, but that first half was tough.
That's what football is like, though. We might go through some tough times in the Premier League but it can all turn around so quickly. There was such an emphasis on the game at Leeds, and the prize, so to go and get that prize of three points in their backyard was so sweet.