Dave Bassett states he would quit as Southampton manager if he did not lead the club into the Premiership within 18 months. In a trenchant application for the job, vacated by Harry Redknapp's extraordinary decampment back up the M27 to Portsmouth, the 58-year-old caretaker also says that Sir Clive Woodward is "sensible to realise" that's it's too soon for him to take over.
Woodward has been conspicuous by his absence from Southampton's Marchwood training ground during the turbulent events of the past week, but Bassett offers himself as someone who can tutor the would-be boss. "He wants to have a go, but I'm sure if he was working with an experienced manager then he'd be learning from him," he says.
However, Bassett also makes it clear that he would expect to be allowed to manage without interference. "Any manager would want to sort out what the role is and what is the demarcation," he says. "You can't be a puppet with someone pulling the strings. In fairness, I don't think Clive will be thinking, 'I'm standing behind Dave Bassett and he's a cardboard cut-out'. He wouldn't want that."
Significantly, Bassett, who was, nevertheless, one of the coaches so strongly opposed to Woodward's outspoken protégé, Simon Clifford, says he is willing to allow the former England rugby coach greater involvement with the first team - something that Redknapp balked at. Indeed, the uninvited attempts by Woodward, during one training session, to show players such as Nigel Quashie how to kick a ball proved to be the final straw for Redknapp - who walked off shaking his head.
But Bassett says: "There's nothing wrong with having a different coach. Clive is a performance director and is very good on the analysis of Pro-Zone and some coaching methods that they used in rugby, the nutrition and certain things." He goes on: "Clive's not an ogre or anything like that. I'm sure he's got things to bring to the table that could be interesting."
However, the former Wimble-don, Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest manager - to name just three of his seven clubs - also adds: "But it's not that he's all of a sudden going to take over the first team. Because I coach". Emphatically, he adds that he is not "a manager who sits in the office, on the phone" but one who expects to be out with the players.
Bassett's conciliatory approach is sensible given the decision taken by the Southampton board at their meeting on Thursday to back chairman Rupert Lowe and to allow Woodward an increased role with the first-team squad. Lowe would like to go further and give him full control, but it has been agreed that, probably, that will not happen before next summer at the earliest, and may have to wait until the year after.
Southampton are drawing up their shortlist of candidates, but say they will not be rushed into an appointment. The immediate targets are a cadre of young, forward-thinking managers such as Watford's Adrian Boothroyd and Brentford's Martin Allen. Interestingly, both are well-known to Woodward, as is Derby County's Phil Brown, while another who could be considered is the Northern Ireland manager, Lawrie Sanchez, who had wanted the Portsmouth job.
Bassett knows he may not fit the desired profile, but his weight of experience, and willingness to fit into the system being planned by Lowe, may help if the club cannot secure their favoured names. He will be in charge of today's meeting with Luton (whose manager, Mike Newell, is attracting covetous glances)with Dennis Wise.
Interestingly, Bassett also makes it clear that he and Wise, who, although 38, has a playing contract at Southampton, want to be regarded as a duo. He adds: "If I get the job I want Dennis to be with me and Dennis has said he'd want me. It's not like boss and assistant. We bounce ideas off each other".
The two worked together at Wimbledon, of course, and, more recently, at Millwall, where the roles were reversed and Bassett assisted Wise. "We've spoken about it and think we can do a good job," Bassett says of the present situation. "We're confident. In the next 18 months, if we couldn't get Southampton up then we'd resign." Tellingly, he adds: "You always plan, but perhaps if it's not here then we might get a job somewhere else".
His current coaching contract expires at the end of January - "but contracts don't worry me," Bassett says - and he also dismisses Redknapp's statement that he always felt he was "keeping the seat warm for someone else" (i.e. Woodward).
"Every management job I've been in I thought that," Bassett says. "As sure as eggs is eggs you either leave or get the sack. So someone replaces you. There's no point worrying about that. You have to be flexible to survive." It's a credo that may stand him in good stead right now.Reuse content