Chris Basham on competition, his love for Sheffield United and the debt the Blades owe to James Beattie

"I don't think he realises how important a player he is and has been for this club," Paul Heckingbottom says of Chris Basham.

The penny must surely be starting to drop.

Before Hollywood drama and claims of disrespect starting flying between Sheffield United and Wrexham, Bramall Lane stood to applaud a quietly-spoken Tynesider who became a South Yorkshire hero.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay was 34-year-old Basham's 500th senior appearance, 372 for his adopted club. Hitting 400 with the Blades is his next-but-one target after the title.

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"His photo will be up somewhere when he's long gone with his appearances underneath and his honours," says his manager.

Basham is no longer undroppable in the right-sided centre-back role he genuinely helped redefine under Chris Wilder. With Anel Ahmedhodzic first choice and Jayden Bogle back from suspension, he will probably be on the bench for Saturday's Championship visit of Swansea City.

But Heckingbottom knows he has to keep Basham around and, at key times, on the pitch – on Tuesday at right wing-back, sometimes in midfield or as a left-sided centre-back.

"It's bringing back the youth days of a utility player," he smiles. "The competition with Anel needs to be ripe. It's got to be friendly, but it has to be there.

MILESTONE: Chris Basham made his 500th Sheffield United appearance against WrexhamMILESTONE: Chris Basham made his 500th Sheffield United appearance against Wrexham
MILESTONE: Chris Basham made his 500th Sheffield United appearance against Wrexham
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"It (the way Heckingbottom has used him) has just proved to me how important I am. It means a lot to me, the backing we've had from this manager since day one."

Basham is not just one of those pros only those inside the game appreciate, as shown in midweek.

"The applause I got was a pinch myself moment," he says. "It was special when I saw my face come up on the scoreboard."

It is easy to work out why his is so loved.

BIG INFLUENCE: James Beattie encouraged Chris Basham to join Sheffield UnitedBIG INFLUENCE: James Beattie encouraged Chris Basham to join Sheffield United
BIG INFLUENCE: James Beattie encouraged Chris Basham to join Sheffield United

"He's a dream, real low maintenance," says Heckingbottom. "An opportunity to speak about someone like this is important because he turns up every day and gives his best. His team-mates know his importance, they see him as a leader."

It is why Heckingbottom thinks that photograph matters.

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"If it was me would I be really bothered? No," he says. "But in this position it is important because you want to understand the club.

"In pre-season when we were trying to bed the younger loan players and the likes of Anel in I think it was Jack (Lester, first-team coach) who said they need to get what a Sheffield United performance is.

"It's really important when you're selling a club to someone to get a feel of what this football club is."

A less-heralded Blade sold it to Basham. James Beattie served the club well in 59 league starts across two spells but is better known for his time at Southampton and Everton.

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Basham is not sure he loves football quite enough to stay in it after playing with his family a higher priority. But when it comes to Sheffield United, he fell head over heels.

"My agent James Ferguson rang me up and said he'd got a few Championship clubs but also one where James Beattie had been and he loved it," he recalls. "He said go and have a look, get a feel for the place.

"I came over the Snake's Pass, which wasn't the best drive, but when I got there the city opened up.

"I saw all the history and (manager) Nigel Clough told me what he thought about me. He said go away and have a think. I think I rang him on the way home. I just fancied knowing I would have 25,000 fans there who would support me if I performed on the pitch.

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"Straight away Beatts had said if you get the chance give it a go and he said take the (shirt number) six if you can. For him it was an upside down nine. He was buzzing when he heard I'd got it."

The rest is history, or it was when then-manager Wilder had the idea to convert the midfielder into an overlapping centre-back.

"He started bringing in overloads with Mark Duffy and joining in with Kieron Freeman and George Baldock," recalls Basham. "We were a bit of a shock in the Premier League and the Championship.

"Now you see 5-3-2s so much. The manager here still uses it too."

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It is not just the formation Heckingbottom utilises, but characters like Basham, Baldock, Billy Sharp, Oliver Norwood, John Egan, John Fleck and Enda Stevens. Their know-how will be important in ensuring Tuesday's circus does not impact their promotion bid.

"A younger group might be sidetracked," says Basham. This one is making Heckingbottom's job easier.

"I get uncomfortable when I'm not having to push someone because I like to seize on any opportunity to reinforce what we're about," he says. "But recently I've not had to."

He has a lot to thank Beattie for.