Chris Basham says the fear of being labelled the worst Premier League team in history could help spur Sheffield United to an extraordinary escape from relegation.
The club are bottom with two points from 16 matches and will set a record for the longest winless start to a Premier League campaign if they fail to beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday. Unless results improve, United will also break unwanted ground for the lowest top-flight points tally; they are on course to finish with fewer than the 11 Derby mustered in 2007-08.
“I don’t think any of our players deserve that,” said Basham. “The lads 100% don’t want that tag. I don’t want the embarrassment of being remembered for the wrong reason at Sheffield United after seven or eight years at the club.”
Basham joined United in 2014 when they were mid-table in League One and draws hopes from the rise under Chris Wilder, including two promotions and last season’s top-half finish. “If there’s one team that can do it, it’s us,” the defender said.
He added that the team have been stung by suggestions the players are better suited to the Championship: “It’s hurtful when people say things like that but at the moment there’s no other way of stating it. That’s the truth because that’s how it looks. So we’ve got to prove that wrong and push and push and hopefully do that. That’s got to feed our hunger. That’s what the manager says to us. We’ve always aspired to play at the top and we’ve always had to go the long way round to do it.”
Basham finds it difficult to explain fully why results have been so poor. Eleven of their 14 league defeats have been by a single goal. “I go away from games thinking: ‘What has gone wrong?” he said. “It’s the bounce of a ball or a fine line or a brilliant striker’s finish. It’s tough to take.
“I look back at games and analyse them and there are things we’ve done better this year than last season but we got results last year and not this year … The way we’ve dominated and dictated a few games. We’ve created a lot of chances and not scored, whereas last year we created a few chances and the ball hit the back of the net.
“We have meetings with the manager every couple of days – he believes we can do it.”