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Dave Bassett on Wimbledon, Sheffield United and the key to management

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An interview with Dave Bassett, by Callum McFadden for Wireless.


I must start by telling you about your success at Wimbledon. You are one of the club’s greatest managers, leading them to three promotions in four seasons. What were the key factors that helped you activate this period of success?

“Hard work and organization have been key to everything we’ve done. Players must also give themselves immense credit.

“We had excellent team spirit and we always played to our strengths. Added to this was our resilience, which was crucial for us.

“Last year, we finished sixth and reached the quarter-finals of the cup with a 23-man squad of which 13 were from our youth team. It was an incredible achievement.

“It’s one of football’s great achievements, but it doesn’t get the credit it deserves in my opinion.”


Do you think the image of “Crazy Gang” could be a reason for the lack of credit according to you?

“No I don’t think so. I’d like to think that wasn’t the reason.

“When we got to the venue it was like a fairy tale but every time we upset the odds and beat a great team they complained that we were kicking them out of the park. Unfortunately that was reflected in the media that could sometimes be anti-Wimbledon.

“They tied us to violence and all sorts of things rather than giving us the credit our finishing positions in the table deserved.

“However, we don’t care too much about it. We thrived on it and we stuck to our guns. It was a great time in my career as we went from a club that entered the football league to finishing in the top six of the first division in a decade.


Many of the players you signed, such as Dave Beasent, Nigel Winterburn and Dennis Wise (to name a few), went on to solid careers in the game. What did they work with and how did you manage this locker room?

“Our locker room was great. They respected the team ethic and were always together with the goal of doing well for the flub. Our team has never been made up of a star man. They all had to contribute to succeed.

“They didn’t all walk off the pitch honestly, but that didn’t matter. They put that aside when they got together to play football.

“Everyone was fully engaged and no one was ever allowed to cause trouble in the dressing room. The players wouldn’t have someone who wasn’t all for the cause.

“It was also key for us to have a great bond with the fans. We regularly mingled with the fans and sometimes had a drink with them at a club called Nelson’s. That wouldn’t happen these days, isn’t it? isn’t it?”


You have said in the past that you never wanted to leave Wimbledon. Looking back, do you regret going to Watford?

“It was not the best choice to go to Watford. I made a mistake.

“I was kicked out by Sam Hammam who felt he wasn’t getting enough credit for Wimbledon to do so well. He wanted the fans to recognize him and for him to be the hero. It wasn’t the case.

“My relationship with him was not the same after I was at Crystal Palace for three days before changing my mind. I felt like he resented me and as a result he didn’t wouldn’t give me the contract I wanted.

“That’s what led me to join Watford and I jumped in thinking it was ideal. I thought it would be a similar club to Wimbledon but it wasn’t and I admit I made a mistake.

“Following Graham Taylor to Watford was a bit like following Sir Alex Ferguson to Manchester United. He was the God of Watford and I underestimated that, as did Sir Elton John who was chairman of the club at the time. .

“Elton was great to work for, but he was going through a tough time in his life at that time with a divorce and addiction to alcohol and drugs.

“He loved his football and would never interfere with a manager’s job but in the end we had to part ways after six months. It was the right thing for both parties.

“That was one of the things that paid off for me in the end because it got me to join Sheffield United who I spent a good eight years with.”


I spoke to one of your former players at Sheffield United, Mark Todd. He described your time at Bramall Lane as a roller coaster as you transformed the club. Is this a fair description in your opinion?

“Sheffield United was a rollercoaster. We were relegated to the Third Division when I joined, but then we bounced back and built the club over the next few years to reach the Premier League. We stayed there for four years until Brian Deane was sold against my will by the owner.

“He played Russian roulette with that decision and we were relegated by one point, so it’s safe to say it never worked out. That decision ended up being for us because Brian was impossible to replace at many ways, so great was his importance to the team.

“Overall, I’m proud of my time there as we created a strong atmosphere that players and fans responded to.

“I inherited an old team and then was able to build a young, hungry team that could play against us. The club staff also came to understand how we did things. It was a family atmosphere.

“We went from the Third Division to playing against Manchester United and Liverpool in the top flight in a few years. It was an impossible dream in many ways considering what I inherited when I walked through the door.


You reached the play-off final with your next club, Crystal Palace, in 1996. How do you reflect on the disappointment of being such a club to take Palace to the Premier League?

“It was tough to take as we lost in the last minute of extra time to a Steve Claridge goal when the game looked to be a penalty shootout.

“I picked up Palace when they were 17th in the league and was able to turn things around and bring us closer to a return to the Premier League.

“Ron Noades wasn’t particularly forthright with me which led to my leaving in 1997 for Nottingham Forest. I came to Palace on a small salary because I knew Ron and once I proved myself , I felt I owed a new contract based on what I had done.

“Ron wasn’t sure and made me wait while in the meantime Manchester City came for me. I decided against City and stayed at Palace until Nottingham Forest came for me.

“It was a shame how it worked out in the end as I enjoyed my time at Palace. Luckily they won the play-off final after I left so I was proud to leave them in good shape.

“I then won the Championship at Nottingham Forest the following season as Palace were relegated, which shows you how strange football can be in terms of storylines.”


The Championship is a notoriously difficult league to win. What was the key to your title success with Forest in 1998?

Sam Allardyce Notts County Dave Bassett Nottingham Forest

May 1, 1998: A successful season for football at Nottingham as Nottingham Forest manager Dave Bassett and Notts County manager Sam Allardyce sit with the Division One and Three trophies following their success in the 1997-98 season.

“I was the first manager after Brian Clough to win silverware with the club.

“I have to be honest and admit it was a tough club to work for as the owners were going through a tough time.

“They sold Kevin Campbell behind my back and then Pierre Van Hooijdonk went on strike, which was a shameful thing for a professional footballer.

“Those two players were key to our goals, so it got harder when we got to the Premier League and lost them both.

“I was sacked in January from our Premier League campaign which I don’t think was fair given that I wasn’t making all the key decisions. We didn’t get stronger when we got together. relieved, which often leads to a fight for any team.


You are one of the few managers to manage over 1000 English football matches. How proud are you of this achievement given the company you work for?

“I am delighted to be part of it. However, I have to say that there are some very good managers who didn’t earn 1000, which I think is tough because they had a lot of ability.

“I guess that shows how difficult it is to reach a milestone. Managing so many games is nice to have on your CV.


Finally, Dave, given your background in football, what are the most difficult aspects of management that fans aren’t necessarily fully aware of?

“You have to manage the man at all levels. It’s your job to get the most out of everyone around you, from the players to your staff.

“You need a good knowledge of football and knowing how you want to play as well as being flexible to know how to play with the players you have available to you at any given time.

“Hard work should be commonplace and it’s important that your staff can complement your work. Have staff who have different strengths than yours to add more to your work.

“If you can do that, you can create a great atmosphere at a club and make your players and staff want to go in the direction you’re going.

“If you can do it, that’s a combination that most often leads to success.”

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