The Intriguing Rise of Basford United

Some of us are still old enough to remember when Basford United played at Mill Street you know. My old man played there a couple of times and I used to watch him before making my own debut there as a kid in the early 90’s.

I remember the old roofed stand on the half-way line behind a couple of concrete dugouts. By then the place was falling apart and the first team had moved up the road to the newer, nicer Greenwich Avenue. I’ll never forget the glass on the pitch, the long dry worn grass with burn marks in it and some kids driving through on their motocross bikes stopping the game with tyre marks everywhere.

Matt McKenzie was playing for us back then. I can never forget Matt’s style as everytime he cleared his lines his foot would follow through on his opponents’ head. Boy he could get that foot up high. I learnt the hard way not to mess with Matt.

When the NSL formed in 2004 I was in my mid-twenties and excited to be part of a new brand organised to improve the quality of amateur football in Notts. I designed the league logo that is still used today, I ran the initial league website which I was always very proud of too… But I also remember being disappointed that Basford United were not initially involved.

Back then Basford had just won the old Notts Alliance First Division but they were not permitted into the newly established NSL on what grounds I can only remember as their facilities not being up to scratch? Greenwich Avenue by then was well and truly the home of Basford but the changing facilities up stairs in the old building (now the clubhouse) weren’t always the best. The water and the showers often not working, the pitch slightly sloped top to bottom was wide, lush and decent but I wonder if ‘snobbery’ was the real reason the club weren’t allocated a founding slot in the NSL, especially at the hands of Sandhurst who were pretty woeful for a few years after?

So Basford instead joined the Notts Amateur Alliance Premier Division in 2004 which was a league I played in during that time for another of the counties longer established clubs in Netherfield Albion. We did ok the season before I think with a top four finish but following the restructuring of the leagues in the county, that year was going to be much tougher. Basford were joined by AC Bulwell, Bilborough, Retford Town, Nottinghamshire to name a few. We played United at home early season and I think they beat us 4-1. I remember their centre forward Kev Walker looking real quality and he might have even had a hat-trick or more? In the return match we lost 2-0 at Greenwich Avenue but played really-well, this was an organised, solid set up that you could tell were destined for better things.

Basford didn’t have it all their own way that season however, it seemed their Greenwich Avenue tenants Bulwell were the team to beat and it was they, not United who would go on to win the league.

A year later though and enter former player Chris Munroe. He alongside Andy Benner had just won the NSL Senior Division with Wollaton and had taken that club as far as it could possibly go. The two-some would head a side that would dominate the league and their team gave myself a couple of memorable thumping’s too.

We survived relegation at Netherfield the season before with an excellent run towards the end of the campaign but during 2005/06 it looked like we would be struggling again. I was injured mid-Autumn and turned up to watch our game verses the table toppers at Greenwich Avenue before being told by the Gaffer ‘we only had ten men’. I said ‘stick me up top and I’ll run around a bit’… Anyone that seen me play full back over the previous ten years or so would be able to tell I was no centre forward… I hobbled around and chased lost causes whilst the impressive Mark Dimech at centre half, cigar on, never broke sweat. I felt embarrassed and apologised to their club captain for our teams display. It wasn’t quite double figures, but it wasn’t far off.

When we played them later in the season, our home ground was unfit for purpose our troubles evident with signs of them not improving. I didn’t start that match at the Racecourse but I ended it. We lost 10-1 and it is still to this day my biggest loss in adult football.

This time it was elegant midfielder Richard Oakes who did the damage spraying balls all over the windswept horse racing circuit. I think he netted a few too. United eventually going on to win the league and deservedly take promotion into the NSL. I think we survived relegation again… Somehow.

The season after Basford finished third in the Senior Division and during that time once again equipped themselves to becoming one of the best teams at that level with five successive top five finishes. It was clear by then Munroe had vision for the club to do something extra-ordinary, by 2011 with Daz Saunders as Manager, Munroe took full control of ownership and that was where the fun really started.

Basford won the Central Midlands League South in 2011/12 before immediately winning the East Midlands Counties League the year after and gaining promotion to the Northern Counties East League, finishing fifth before switching to the newly founded Midland Football League in 2014.

By this time, Munroe had moved upstairs, Greenwich Avenue had improved tenfold, floodlights, perimeters, stands, even work on new changing facilities had started and the side had some of the counties best players playing for a Manager in Martin Carruthers who had over 500 league games under his belt. Lee Hendrie even famously played for the club, a one-time England International in his mid-thirties along with his younger brother Stuart who’s goalscoring exploits helped push the side up the leagues.

Munroe’s dream, Basford’s dream, a club that had on only a couple of occasions in its 100 plus year history played in the FA Cup, is one that now plays regularly in the competition and one that is a Northern Premier League high flyer with aspirations of the National League Conference and even higher.

Now with facilities in place to push on towards unprecedented targets, their 4G pitch and plans for expansion are impressive with a Manager these days in Steve Chettle, the former Nottingham Forest legend at the helm, the club is one that is looking to fly the flag for the county of Nottinghamshire and is one that is getting attention nationally too.

I was listening to TalkSport only the other day where Jim White read out a tweet from ‘a Bassford United supporter’. Whilst the Scots presenter may have (popularly) mis-pronounced the clubs name, it feels like these days a lot more people know about this old team which has come on leaps and bounds since the days of the crumbling Mill Street and even nearer during this millennium, when playing in the old Notts Amateur Alliance in front of one man and his dog and giving thrashings to park and pub teams that included the skinny pale legs of little old me.

*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).

*Main image @Basfordutdfc the 2019/20 team proudly showcasing their Notts FA Senior Cup trophy.

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