Chris Wilder is looking to upgrade his Sheffield United squad in January, but centre-back Chris Basham need have no fears after the manager described him as “one of my favourite players”.
Basham made way for new signing Jack Rodwell in Sunday’s FA Cup third-round win over Fylde on Sunday and despite the 28-year-old’s impressive debut, there seems little doubt Wilder will revert to the back three which has served him so well this season for tonight’s Premier League game against West Ham United.
The three of us get on well off the pitch and I think that shows on the pitch. We’ve got a lot of clean sheets since we all started playing together.John Egan
Not the Blades’ most naturally-gifted player, the way the former Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool player makes the most of his talent is symbolic of them.
“Basham was a sub’ for Sunday’s game,” says Wilder. “He came on after 60 minutes and I thought he was man of the match for half an hour. He epitomises the group.
“He’s one of my favourite players. When I finish managing and look back, he’ll be right up there in the players I’ve coached and managed.
“He’s an absolute diamond of a lad, a dry, popular boy who leaves it all out there.
“I’m never going to say he’s the most talented, but as an all-round player he is certainly up there. He’s done a fabulous job for me and the club.
“He was here before me and suffered, and has stayed the course. He’s achieved an enormous amount and there’s more to come from him.
“He’s a fit boy who trains full tilt every day and a brilliant guy to have around and work with. I hope he stays for a few years longer. He’s played a major part in what we’ve achieved and still got a part to play medium- to long-term.”
The Blades have the Premier League’s best defensive record outside the top two, and Basham and Jack O’Connell have been ever-presents.
“They’ve had a rapid rise, like myself,” comments fellow centre-back John Egan, who has only missed one match.
“The three of us get on well off the pitch and I think that shows on the pitch. We’ve got a lot of clean sheets since we all started playing together.
“We know what we’re capable of defensively, not just the back lads but as a team. Everyone works their socks off, you’ve got Didzy (David McGoldrick) coming back heading away corners, it’s a team effort.
“It’s been a great start for us. Maybe we could have had a couple more clean sheets but we’ve been hard to beat and break down and hopefully we can continue that.”
Wilder hopes free agent Rodwell will not be his only January addition, but admits bringing players in from different clubs is not easy.
“Nobody wants to let players go in January so you get inflated prices because of a desperation at times to improve squads,” argues Wilder. “You’ve got something I want, you hike the price up and I’ve got a decision to make. Mid-season is notoriously difficult (to sign players in), you don’t want to lose your best players and if you do, it’s at a premium.
“I’m not sure there’ll be much activity (nationwide), we’re 10 days in and nothing’s come out that’s shocked everyone. I should imagine it’ll ramp up towards the end but it always seems that way. Even in the summer, people leave it to the last minute. I don’t like doing it but sometimes it happens and you’re in the hands of others.
“(In January you get) bigger agent’s fees and bigger loan fees. I didn’t pay a loan fee for a year and half here, it was only the second year in the Championship I was introduced to loan fees.
“I’ve still got the same methods and the same qualities I want in a player and I’m still going about it in the same way, diligent and smart.
“We work in different areas to the big boys. At a couple of clubs it’s, ‘How big’s your telly?’ and I’ve got a portable!
“But it’s part of the fun. I enjoy signing players and trying to improve the group.
“There’s a skill to it, the timing is key.
“Some players we’ve taken as far as they can go and they understand that. You’ve got to refresh and keep improving and I feel we’ve done that since we walked through the door.”
Wilder is hoping to move on defenders Richard Stearman, Kean Bryan, Jake Wright and Ben Heneghan, plus centre-forward Leon Clarke, this month, but while he understands why Billy Sharp is in demand, he says his captain still has a job to do at Bramall Lane.
“I spoke to him about three weeks ago about it (Sharp’s future) knowing what was going to come up and that the question was going to be asked, and rightly so,” he said. “If I was in the Championship and needed someone to give us a boost and saw Billy wasn’t playing at Sheffield United, I’d ask the question (about whether he was available).
“But Billy’s got an important part to play and he’s had an important part to play because he’s put huge pressure on Lys Mousset, Oli McBurnie and Callum Robinson. How good is it for them to learn from the likes of Billy and (David) McGoldrick?
“The example he’s setting and the influence he has on the players coming up from the Championship is huge.
“But the decision is with Bill. If he comes to me and says he needs to go, of course I’ll respect that.”