Crystal Palace v Sheffield United - Elusive first win would crown Chris Basham’s milestone moment

FOR Chris Basham’s proud parents, Paul and Julie, watching their boy suffer in his place of work will be keenly felt.

Chris Basham of Sheffield Utd. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Chris Basham of Sheffield Utd. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But perspective is never far away.

The grounded north-easterner, a wonderfully consistent footballer and top-notch individual who is as honest as the day is long, will step out in Sheffield United’s colours for the 300th time today – a fine achievement in modern-day football where stalwart service is not what it once was.

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The milestone will be a notable one for the 33-year-old, but inside he is hurting – as all the Blades’ players are.

Other feats are taking centre stage. The Blades’ plight at the foot of the Premier League is well known. On Tuesday, they became the first team to ever reach New Year’s Day without registering a league win in a particular league season for 118 years.

More unwanted records will tumble if United’s depressing statistics continue.

Small wonder that Basham and his team-mates are avoiding Sky Sports News and not reading much in the media these days.

For friends and family, it is tough as well, they are also sharing the pain.

Basham’s parents have been with him side by side in his career every step of the way. Right from the moment, they opened the letter that informed him that Newcastle United would be releasing him when he was a teenager.

Basham took the blow firmly on he chin and fought back. As he will do now amid testing times. Although watching football on the television is a ‘no-no’ if he can help it.

He said: “At the moment, I will be honest, I do try and stay away from it. I have a few family days out and just get my mind away from it.

“It is 24/7 and you do see Sheffield United at the bottom of the table and it is not nice to see. It is disappointing, but you have to take the good with the bad. Last year, I would probably be watching it, this year, I am not. At the moment, it is bad.

“We have to re-analyse the games, that is the most important thing. We have to see the bad things and the manager is brilliant at doing that, he likes us to watch games back and looks at the positives and negatives. There has been a lot of negatives, but also some positives as well.”

On the impact on family and friends, he added: “Definitely, they know that I am down.

“I am 33 years old and have got a family and I have got to try and keep their spirits high and keep producing for them as well. My dad is my biggest fan, but has not been to a game of football since March and he is disappointed about that.

“My family is all together and know I am going through a hard period of time, but we all like that in the dressing room as well – together. If somebody is down, we will put an arm around them and try to stick together the best we can. Staff included as well.

“If the players need help, they are all there for us and the good thing about this club is that it has been like that in the past four or five years from what the manager has built.

“My dad tries to clear my head and look at the positives. Obviously, there has not been many at the minute, but we are pushing away and he knows that.

“It (criticism) is hurtful when we hear things like that from outside.

“But at the moment, there’s no other way of saying it. It is the truth and that’s how it looks and we have got to prove them wrong and push and push.

“Like the manager says, we are one win away from hopefully having someone looking over our shoulders and giving us all a load of confidence as well.”

Like any good professional, it is no surprise that his club’s inability to conjure a victory this season is deeply troubling Basham. It is also perplexing him.

The Blades have been competitive in virtually every game this season, perhaps apart from their poor performances and comprehensive defeats at Chelsea and Southampton.

Testament to that is the fact that 11 of their 14 defeats this term have been by a single goal. Fine margins and all that.

Asked just why the Blades have toiled in terms of results this season, Basham cannot give a definitive answer.

The defender added: “It is tough because I go away from the game thinking: ‘What has gone on?’ Is it the bounce of the ball, a fine line or a brilliant striker’s finish... It is tough to take. I cannot tell you what has gone wrong.

“There are things we have done better this year than we have last year. A big part of it is not having the support bases around the games. The boys have produced on big occasions and know they can do it and without the fans, it has been tough to take. Maybe lockdown as well. Going into the unknown was tough and it has kind of caught up with us as well.”

United’s predicament may be grave, but woe betide anyone who has the temerity to suggest that a tight, together group of players have already given up the Premier League ghost.

It is not in their DNA and certainly not in the make-up of their manager, someone who has watched games in his capacity as a fan from all four sides of Bramall Lane in years gone by.

But how Wilder’s side could do with a catalyst. At the start of the new year, today would be a timely juncture and few in football would be begrudge them of their moment if they celebrated a famous result at Selhurst Park.

Basham said: “We have meetings with the manager every couple of days. He believes that we can do it.

“With his belief and us as the older lads and the younger lads coming through, they believe that, too.

“We have just got to keep sticking to our wits and performances and looking at our performances first and then the team comes along with it.

“That is important; everyone puffing their chests out and trying to win a game of football and there are still a lot of points to play for. I know it does not look great now, but if there’s one team who can do it, it’s us, hopefully.”

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