- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Charles Walmsley
Every fan has a player they dread lining up against their team. Ex-Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg seemed to love scoring against Liverpool, while Chelsea hitman Didier Drogba frequently nets against the Gunners. Mine was Oxford United’s Steve Basham.
As I awaited updates from Leyton Orient’s far-flung away trips, week after week Basham’s name would appear on Jeff Stelling’s videprinter. With a name befitting a Roy of the Rovers centre forward it is little wonder my anxiety grew as the Oxford fixture drew nearer.
While he only managed one against my team, Steve bagged 49 goals for the U’s. And he’s not just a United legend – this season he signed for non-league Oxford City and has bashed in 13 already.
“Luckily I’m scoring goals,” said the striker, who was sitting out City’s 2-1 win over Chippenham Town through injury. The win lifted the Evo-Stick Southern Premier side into the play-off positions, setting up an exciting second half of the season.
“We’re doing ever so well. We’ve got a great bunch of lads here – young lads, a few experienced lads – we’ve just got to keep it going.”
“It’s never easy, every level is different. We come up against great players and every one stands back and says, ‘He should be playing higher.’” Although the pitches and changing rooms aren’t quite the standard of his Southampton and Preston days, 34-year-old Basham isn’t complaining.
“At the end of the day it’s a game of football and if you love football that’s why you still carry on.”
Basham featured in 19 games for the Saints and has a top-flight goal to his name which came against Blackburn in 1998. He’s played alongside Matt Le Tissier, James Beattie and Wayne Bridge and started in a narrow defeat to Manchester United.
It was a late Eric Cantona strike sunk the Saints at Old Trafford fifteen years ago and it’s not surprising that Basham lists the King alongside David Beckham and Ryan Giggs as his toughest opponents.
Naturally, he misses the heady heights of the Premier League. He said, “I enjoy my football now but you do miss it, you never realise at the time how long it’s going to last.
“Unfortunately for me I broke my leg and things declined quite quickly from the Premier League and the Championship. But I’ve got some fantastic memories and they’ll always be there.”
After an injury-plagued spell with Preston, Basham traded Lancashire for the Dreaming Spires. He became an Oxford United legend and has a soft spot for the city.
“I played here for five years and I lived here for five years and then went to Exeter but always wanted to come back. There’s something about the place.”
Despite playing for both Oxford sides he doesn’t get any stick from the United faithful. He added, “I’ve been very lucky, Oxford United fans have always been fantastic towards me.
“Whenever I see them they’re always the first to ask me how I’m doing and when I get a chance I’m down there supporting them.”
With Basham in fine form and City surging up the table, now is the time for students to get down to Court Place Farm to witness the action. With the cost of watching football soaring, the £4.50 entrance fee is a bargain – as Steve says, it’s a great “escape from study”!
He argued, “This is a great social thing. You can come and support a small local side, it’s a day out, a few drinks, it’s something else to follow.”
And with the side doing so well in the League it’s well worth your Saturday afternoon. Mid-table Weymouth are in town next time out – let’s hope Steve will be back to bash in the goals.