From the beginning it was wrong. Very, very wrong. Even Bassett himself admitted so afterwards.
May 1988 and Elton John misreads the signals from a bored Graham Taylor and lets him speak to Villa, instead of saying, "NO. You've got a job to do here". Without consultations, our Chairman makes an illegal approach for the cheeky-chappie. He jumps at the chance and an eight-month Reign Of Horror begins. It took us a decade to recover.
The characteristic change in backroom staff followed. So it was "cheerio" to the overlooked Steve Harrison, John Ward and Billy Hails. A team of forgettable cronies took their place. Only Tom Walley remained. Ignoring the fact that John Barnes was going to leave anyway, it was also a reluctant farewell to Steve Sims, Mark Falco, David Bardsley, Kevin Richardson, Lee Sinnott, Steve Sherwood and Richard Hill. They were replaced by Agana, Chivers (!), Hetherston (!!), Hodges, Henry (!!!), Morris and Senior (!!!!). This is the First Division, don't forget. The imbalance is deafening.
Okay, Bassett was on a hiding to nothing, following Taylor and The Glory Years. And "Harry" had to work at a time when Elton was trying to sell the club (to fund his "neutered dogs" libel case against The Sun?) to Maxwell, Paul Raymond and Tom Cobbley. But this is the guy that slashed our dreams in a painful and despairing way.
Ironically, we beat his beloved Wimbledon in the season's opening game but from there it was downhill and into the dungeons. We won just three more games in twenty-two. No wonder the natives were restless, and rightly so, but it was the players' reaction that was so astonishing. Rumours of players' revolt increasingly circulated in that dark winter but two incidents are ingrained on my memory.
We lose to Sheffield Wednesday, 3-1 at home on Boxing Day, and Tony Coton makes no effort when his old Hornet mate Colin West scores down the Rookery End. To this day I'm sure Coton gifted West the goal and clearly Tony couldn't give a toss. He and Gibbs and Blissett are dropped. Six days later, another defeat, 2-1 away to Spurs and "Podges" Hodges throws a wobbly, kicking anyone in sight. The referee takes pity and instead of sending him off allows the Watford dugout to make the quickest of substitutions. There's much gesticulating between bench and player as he stomps down the tunnel. Bassett's own worm had turned.
More irony. His last home game was an Agana-inspired pulverising of Man Utd, on a quagmire of a pitch. We still lost 1-0 and even Ferguson admits they stole the points. It was around then that Bassett said for the fourth time "We've turned the corner". The square was complete, we were back to where we started and he was soon gone. Tom Walley held the reigns for a single game and the returning Harrison was instantly able to ease some of the pain. His first game in charge was a 2-1 win, away to Wimbledon. A few songs were sung that day.
But the damage was done.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...
Dave Bassett - King Of Arse.