Sheffield United defender determined to live up to ‘Bashambauer’ tag in Premier League

THE Premier League is about to welcome a new nickname.

Going up: Sheffield United's Chris Basham celebrates promotion at Stoke.

‘Bashambauer’, the moniker bestowed on Chris Basham by Sheffield United supporters, is a nod to the defender’s ability to make driving runs forward with the ball at his feet before invariably pinging a pass to a team-mate with such unerring accuracy it is tempting to believe his boots are fitted with a GPS tracker.

The 31-year-old is too young to have seen Franz Beckenbauer in action. But his dad was a huge fan, meaning Basham knows all about the man dubbed ‘Der Kaiser’ due to a playing style that married elegance, dominance and leadership.

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“I enjoy the nickname,” says Basham, first given the tag as the playing style implemented by Chris Wilder that encourages two of the three centre-backs to bomb forward with the ball began to take hold in 2016.

Match-winner: Chris Basham celebrates scoring the winning goal at Elland Road.

“It has gone wild now. He (Beckenbauer) was the kind of player that my dad looked up to.”

Basham made 41 appearances last season as the Blades clinched promotion. He played a key role, none more so than when scoring the only goal when Wilder’s side beat promotion rivals Leeds United at Elland Road in March.

That winner came on an afternoon when Basham had been pushed into midfield to counteract the slick passing style employed by Marcelo Bielsa, illustrating the versatility that he brings to the squad.

“Last season was brilliant,” added the Hebburn-born Basham.

“Every year, I seem to kick on. I do not want to let the team down or my family, that is what motivates me.

“Keep cracking on. This is my sixth year and to be at this club so long is a massive achievement. I just want to keep going, keep the fans on side and keep the ‘Bashambauer’ status going.”

Basham, signed on a free transfer from Blackpool by Nigel Clough in the summer of 2014, is the longest-serving member of a squad that will this season tackle the Premier League.

He is 10 games shy of reaching the milestone of 250 appearances, a notable achievement considering life at the Lane has not always been as rosy as the past three years under Wilder.

Basham told The Yorkshire Post: “I have seen the difficult times here as well. There have been the two promotions, the semi-final of the (League) Cup and semi-final of the play-offs.

“But also there was the season when we did not have the best of times under the previous manager (Nigel Adkins). That is football. What we have now is ‘pinch yourself’, really.”

United last played in the Premier League a dozen years ago, meaning only Phil Jagielka –- back at the Lane on a free transfer from Everton – remains from the side that went down under Neil Warnock.

There is not too much top-flight experience from elsewhere, either. Richard Stearman spent three years among the elite with Wolverhampton Wanderers, and new record signing Lys Mousset has spent the past three years as a bit-part player at Bournemouth and Ravel Morrison played 17 times for West Ham United.

Enda Stevens, once of Aston Villa, is another to have played a few times at the top level early in his career, as did Basham with Bolton Wanderers.

“I have played in the Premier League but the profile is so different now to when I was there,” he says.

“Ten, 11 years ago, there was not the cameras we saw at training in, say, Portugal (where United held a pre-season training camp this summer).

“We have been told by the media guys at the club that we will be doing treble the media work we did last season. It was not like that back then.

“Now, it is watched all around the world. This is the biggest league and the interest is huge. Club-wise, a lot of work had to go into getting the stadium ready. Putting in a media suite for you guys, things like that.

“It is so big and that is why we need to stay in this league as long as we can. We want to cement legendary status at Sheffield United.”

Basham and the class of 2018-19 have surely already achieved the latter. The manner of the club’s promotion was as impressive as it was deserved to earn a crack at the elite.

“We all speak among ourselves and talk about what we will be up against,” added Basham, whose eye has already been caught by a 25-day period around the turn of the year that includes two meetings with Manchester City, plus trips to Liverpool and Arsenal. “We just need to be ourselves and not change what has got us here in the first place.

“I will keep running with the ball and trying to get forward. That is my game. There will need to be more of a structure when playing against teams like Manchester City. We will need to be more disciplined.

“But I do believe our hunger will again drive us on. We will, though, have to also be realistic. We are all sore losers in this team. We hate losing and the manager is the same. But one thing that will happen this season is that we will lose. That is the reality in the Premier League.

“Look at January, for instance. They are tough, tough fixtures. I did laugh to myself when I saw them. But it is exciting for everyone.

“People will say Sheffield United are favourites to go down. But we love that. We have been underdogs all our lives.

“The plan is to prove everyone wrong and be the biggest underdog story of all.”