December 7 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Sebastien Bassong is the aristocratic class with the warrior spirit at the heart of Norwich City’s backline.
The French-bred, Cameroon international has proved an inspirational force for the Canaries since his early-season arrival from Tottenham.
So much so, Bassong is now an indispensible component in City’s bid to secure a third consecutive season of Premier League football. The measure of the man is not just in his own contribution to the cause, but the impact he has had on those around him.
“I like responsibility. I am someone who would rather try to be a leader because that’s the way I am. I never shut up. I’m always talking on the pitch and outside,” he said. “I’m trying to do my best for the team and if some players feel happy about it, I’m happy as well. I think all together we can do our job and play our part in the game.
“I’m happy with my form. I was desperate to get some Premier League games, so I’m maybe a bit lucky because everything is going well personally. But if everything is going well for me, it’s because of the team. We are doing well together so I can feel comfortable to express myself and I will try to carry on like this.
“Even when I joined the team, I always said it was going to be a good move for me. Some people thought it was like a step back and I said, ‘No, it was a step to the side.’ I think Norwich have given me a lot and I’m trying to give it them back.”
Bassong’s partnership alongside Michael Turner has been a key factor in the defensive resolution characterising Norwich’s best work under Chris Hughton, but the 26-year-old opts to downplay his own role.
“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and try to do a little bit more because we can always improve,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing every day in training and on match day – trying to defend first of all and do the best I can. If I can add something else to the team, I’ll do it as well.
“Michael has something maybe I haven’t got. That’s why we can play with each other, but no matter who I am playing with or if I am not playing, we have a couple of good central defenders who can do the job.”
Bassong, however, is likely to be a pivotal part of Hughton’s masterplan to subdue an Everton side who this time around can call on the aerial threat of Marouane Fellaini.
The Norwich centre-back will draw plenty of encouragement from his display in the corresponding fixture on Merseyside, when he capped a stirring individual shift with the vital stoppage time equaliser.
“That was my first goal of the season and maybe the most important one for me. It was the last minute of the game. I’ve always wished I could score one goal like that, 90th minute, and get an equaliser. It’s a great feeling,” he said. “In the first half they were better than us. They were moving the ball around, most of the time we were chasing the ball because they have some skilful players and knock the ball around really well. In the second half we came back stronger and I think our goal was well-deserved.
“Everton are one of the big teams in the Premier League for me. They’ve been working together for many years already. They work hard, in the image of the manager. It’s going to be a tough game, they have good individuality. It’s obvious he (Fellaini) has done really well this season, he keeps scoring goals.
“He is a threat, like Steven Pienaar is another threat, Leon Osman, (Victor) Anichebe. They have a lot of threats. Fellaini is one of them, we’ll try to handle him the best we can.”
City’s battling point at Goodison Park came in the midst of a club-record Premier League unbeaten run. Bassong admits there are no easy answers why City have failed to scale those same heights since.
“I honestly don’t know. If I had the answer, I would give it to you,” he said. “When we were unbeaten for 10 games, you could have asked me the same question and now it is the other way round. We have been through some bad moments but the most important thing is don’t make it last too long.
“We’ve drawn the last three. I don’t think we’re really far away from a win. Sometimes it’s just the details. Sometimes the luck can be with you. When we were unbeaten for 10 games, we’ve won some games with a lot of luck so now it’s the other way round. It happens in football.
“I think we need to score goals. We’ve kept a lot of clean sheets and altogether we’ve got to try to be more effective in the final third, to put the ball in the net. As soon as we start scoring, I think everything is going to be all right.”
Bassong knows the alternative is unpalatable, with City’s margin for error receding on the back of each winless week in the league. The former Newcastle defender is well aware Hughton’s squad have plenty of hard yards ahead to avoid becoming embroiled in a late relegation fight.
“We’ve got to think about it because it can come quicker than we think,” he said.
“You can find yourself at the bottom without realising you are there, so we have to be positive, keep believing in ourselves, keep doing what we know we can do but always looking behind us and thinking the other teams won’t give up. So if we’re not playing to our maximum, we might find ourselves down there.
“I have to be confident but I’m not looking at the table or the points. I’m just focusing on trying to win games, the most we can.
“No matter how many points we’re going to have, if we keep winning games and not losing them, we will stay up.”