Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The New Arrivals - Chris Basham & Harrison McGahey

This week on A United View we will be hearing about each of United's new arrivals from the fans who watched them last season. Each day we will be hearing the reaction to losing a player and getting an idea of what we can expect in the coming months.

Next up is Chris Walker, Blackpool fan and blogger whose work in highlighting the Oyston family's financial shenanigans, before the mainstream press got hold of the story, showed the power of fans and bloggers in the social media age.

You can follow Chris at @onedavebamber and read his musings at http://measuredprogress.co.uk/ - fascinating reading at the moment at a time when Chris and his fellow fans have every right to be concerned at how his club is being run and with huge concerns over what the future holds.

Amongst the exodus of players from Blackpool this Summer, two players have arrived at Bramall Lane. Here is a Blackpool view on Chris Basham and Harrison McGahey. 

Chris Basham

Chris Basham's arrival at Bloomfield Road came only days before Blackpool took to the pitch for their sole Premier League season for a reported £1m from Bolton Wanderers. He made his debut as a substitute in the opening day 4-0 win at Wigan, but his impact was limited during 'Pool's foray into top flight football with strong competition and injury keeping him out of the side.

Despite relegation to the Championship and some notable departures in midfield, Basham still failed to hold down a regular first team berth under Ian Holloway. When called upon, he would do himself justice, but without ever earning Holloway's trust and even when deployed, it wasn't always in his preferred central midfield role.

Basham's versatility has perhaps been his biggest problem during four seasons on the Fylde coast, often being asked to fill in elsewhere in midfield, or at right back or even centre back when injuries and suspensions have needed covering. Typically, when the first choices in these roles were available again, Basham would find himself back on the bench.

Under Paul Ince, and later Barry Ferguson, Basham did manage to make himself almost a mainstay of the side, but once again never in a set position and rarely in his favoured (and best) role as a central midfield battler. As a result of his constant position changes, Basham is a hard player to fairly judge. Ask most Blackpool fans about him and you'd be hard pressed to find many who will mourn his departure, but whether this is a fair appraisal is open to debate.

Certainly, when being asked to fill in as a wide midfielder, or as a right back, Basham could look a little unwieldy. He has strong physical attributes and can look an imposing figure, but when required to produce on the ball, he could come up short. A gangly figure, Basham's control and distribution could be better, and these weaknesses were often exposed when he was filling in out wide.

However, to criticise him for this could be considered harsh given he is clearly not suited to playing these positions, yet has done so time and time again and without complaint while at the same time giving his all; a lack of effort is never something of which you can accuse Basham. The likeable Geordie is a player who oozes commitment and when utilised correctly, can be a very effective person to have in the squad.

Basham's best performances came in the centre of midfield, combined with creative players around him. Basham would break up play, get up and down the pitch, and lay the ball off to those more able to carve out goal scoring opportunities. It may be an unheralded role at times, but it is one Basham has shown he has the ability for at Championship level, when provided the opportunity.

Dropping down a level to League One should see Basham shine. He can mix it with the best of them and with more creative players alongside him, Basham should become a key cog in the machine, and also is one who has the experience of coping at a higher level were Sheffield United to win their long overdue promotion back to the second tier of English football.

Harrison McGahey

Following Basham on the journey to Bramall Lane is young centre back Harrison McGahey. A rare product of Blackpool's notoriously poor youth setup, McGahey broke into the side for the final four games of last season on the back of an injury crisis at Bloomfield Road. At the time, the Seasiders looked nailed-on certainties to drop to League One following a catastrophic collapse in the second half of the campaign.

McGahey made his debut in front of the Sky cameras at home to promotion-chasing Burnley, and for an 18 year old, did not look out of place. Indeed, had McGahey struggled in that match, interim manager Barry Ferguson had the option of dropping Chris Basham back into the centre of defence, but McGahey impressed enough to keep his place in the remaining three league games. Good performances in a draw at Brighton and surprise win at Wigan, which ultimately saved ‘Pool’s season, saw McGahey’s star quickly rise.

With survival virtually secured going into the final day, Blackpool turned in an after the Lord Mayor’s show type performance at home to Charlton with a spineless 3-0 defeat. This game showed how raw McGahey is and that he still has a lot to learn, but he was far from the only culprit that day and had shown enough promise for everyone to assume a competitive contract would be offered to ensure his future remained on the Fylde coast.

Quite how Blackpool have let McGahey slip through their fingers is a mystery and despite rumour and counter-rumour, the exact details are yet to emerge. Nonetheless, it is symptomatic of the ongoing mismanagement of the club that a young prospect was allowed to leave for a team a division below, regardless of the attraction of Sheffield United and the greater potential they probably hold. The common theory is that a derisory contract offer was tabled and swiftly rejected, at which point the Blades spotted an opportunity and acted decisively to claim his signature.

An upcoming tribunal will determine what fee has to be paid and there is an odd juxtaposition of on the one hand Blackpool demanding a sizeable sum, yet on the other hand effectively placing a low valuation on McGahey with a meagre contract offer. Taking that into account, it’s hard to imagine Sheffield United having to cough up too much and with McGahey’s potential it should be a wise investment.

It’s doubtful that McGahey is ready for regular first team football just yet and the hustle and bustle of League One could require some time for him to adapt. Anyone expecting Harry Maguire Mark II may be disappointed; while Maguire has had a strong build ever since emerging on the scene at Bramall Lane, one feels McGahey could still do with bulking up a little to cope with the rigours of professional football.

However, if managed correctly and Nigel Clough shows patience with McGahey to ease him into first team football, he certainly has the potential to carve out a good career for himself. Thrown in at the deep end of a chaotic Blackpool, a lesser player would have floundered and had his confidence destroyed. McGahey showed a maturity to handle such extreme circumstances and he is undoubtedly a big loss for the Seasiders.


  1. Great find again Ian this guy is obviously knowledgeable. Also worrying on the Basham front as I presumed he was going to be a flexi-player like Davies however he sounds better doing the Doyle role. So the thing is do we use Doyle and Basham like Doyle and McGinn or Doyle and Connor type midfield or is Basham Doyle's replacement with Butler having the Armband? Doyle presumably being available if Basham is Injured? Don't Know.
    Harrison sounds like a good acquisition, I was more excited by him than Alcock which is perhaps unfair as Alcock is a first team player with amazing versatility. The reason I'm excited is the potential of this lad along with Clough's record of bringing on young players.
    Again great work Ian well done. I'm excited about each of these articles on your blog now, they are much more informative than the close season rubbish on the two main "we need a striker" forums.

  2. Good piece very informative it's already made me revise my expectations of both these players every blade should read these thanks

  3. Good article. Blackpool played 3-5-2 in McGahey's debut. Basham was the left sided centre half, and Basham was the right sided centre half with Cathcart between them.

    Basham did box to box vs Burton with McGinn holding back a little more (like Doyle). It remains to be seen if such a pairing can be creative/attacking enough.