Sunday 3rd December 2023
Ahead of Saturday's FA Vase fixture, Sam Collier was presented with a bottle of champagne by chairman Paul Gerrish in recognition of his 350th game with the club as either player or manager - a milestone reached in last week's Hellenic League Premier Division win away at Westfields.
Collier initially joined Bassett as a player in the summer of 2009. Starting out as a defender, Collier struggled to get to grips with the pace and tenacity of attackers in Hellenic League Division One West and was relegated to the bench for a September visit to Harrow Hill. However that evening would change the course of his career as, in manager Dave Turner's hour of need, Collier came on as a striker, scoring twice in a 3-1 win.
He would play as a forward for the rest of the season, firing 22 goals in all as Bassett finished as runners-up and earned promotion back to the Hellenic Premier. The following season Collier was again Bassett's top scorer with an impressive 26 goal haul.
While Bassett finished 15th, ground grading issues meant they were demoted back to Division One West for 2011-12. Collier initially stuck around with Bassett while also having a brief spell back with Bassett under Jeff Roberts in 2013-14.
But the lure of Southern League football was too tempting and he had successful stops at step four with Abingdon United, Cirencester Town and Wantage Town, while also serving briefly as player-manager at Shrivenham after close friend Dave Turner tragically passed away.
Collier returned for good in 2017-18. His eleven goals that year were enough to finish as top scorer a third time, while he also took over the reins as interim manager in January 2018 after the departure of Rich Hunter.
A slow start saw Bassett winless in his first nine matches in charge. But Collier scored the only goal of the game to break his managerial duck against Ascot United. Bassett would end the season 15th with Collier doing enough to be appointed on a permanent basis.
Collier would improve on that in his first full season in charge in 2018-19, guiding his team to tenth place - at that point the club's highest ever finish.
Covid interrupted the following two seasons, but that did not prevent Bassett having cup success. Bassett equalled their best FA Cup and Vase runs in 2020-21 and also reached the Hellenic League Challenge Cup semi finals that season. In the FA Cup upset wins over Didcot Town and Cinderford Town helped Bassett reach the second qualifying round where they lost narrowly to National League South Oxford City, while in the Vase the team advanced to the second round.
More cup success followed in 2021-22. The first full post-pandemic season, Bassett finished 12th in the league and advanced to the FA Vase third round for the first time ever thanks to wins against Knaphill, Portishead Town, Downton and Torpoint Athletic.
2022-23 was then Collier's best season yet as manager. After a run to the FA Cup first qualifying round, Bassett again reached the Vase third round before finishing fifth - higher than ever before - in the Hellenic Premier. His team also advanced to the Hellenic League Challenge Cup semi finals for a second time.
So far this season - in which Collier reached the 350 game mark - Bassett have again performed strongly in the league and are in the hunt for another top five placing, which this year would mean entering the promotion playoffs. Bassett, of course, made the Vase third round again though another record was sadly just out of reach with defeat on penalties against Bridgwater United.
71 goals (and one last minute penalty save as a stand in goalkeeper) in 161 games and one promotion as a player, cup and league records as a manager: Collier has been not just a loyal, but a successful servant of the club.
The next milestone for him is 400 games. Hopefully by then there will be some silverware - in the form of the Wiltshire Premier Shield or Hellenic League Floodlit Cup - or possibly even another promotion to add to his list of achievements with Bassett.Last modified on Sunday 3rd December 2023 at 08:51.