Having managed both clubs before stepping away from the dug-out and mentored the men now tasked with controlling their respective destinies, Dave Bassett is in a ‘no-lose’ situation this weekend.
But the 72-year-old, who twice steered Sheffield United to promotion after achieving the feat four times with Wimbledon, last night admitted that watching his former teams do battle tomorrow will still be an emotional experience.
“They’re so close to my heart and huge parts of my life,” Bassett said. “There’s not a hair’s breadth between them. When I look back on my career, those were the two best times without a shadow of a doubt. They mean so much to me.”
Bassett was yesterday described by Chris Wilder as the “greatest manager” in United’s history after confirming he would be attending the League One fixture at Bramall Lane. Wilder, who played under Bassett during his spell in South Yorkshire, is a fully paid up member of the Londoner’s fan club. The admiration is mutual.
“Chris is a proper manager,” Bassett, who took charge of United in 1988, said. “He understands the game, understands players and what makes them tick. There’s no spin or nonsense about him, he tells it like it is. I’ve made no secret of the fact I think United have made some pretty dreadful appointments in the not so distant past but, make no mistake, they’ve got the right guy there now.”
Bassett oversaw nearly 400 United matches before resigning in December 1995. Nine years earlier, after developing the likes of Dennis Wise and Dave Beasant, he had been responsible for guiding Wimbledon from the old Fourth Division to the First. That experience saw Bassett included on the selection panel which appointed Neal Ardley as Terry Brown’s successor four seasons ago.
“Neal has a similar attitude to Chris in the sense that he knows its all about the players,” Bassett said. “It helps but it’s not all about the money. If you don’t bring the right people in then, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll struggle. There’s a lot of nonsense talked in football these days. You can go on about the modern game all you want but that fact still stands true. You need to surround yourself with the right characters. That’s what Chris and Neal do.”