Tough tackling Englishmen Alf Basnett was a First Division Championship winner with Burnley before joining Ballymena in the twilight of his distinguished career.
Born in the English town of St. Helen’s, Alf’s early sporting accomplishments came playing rugby, and only started playing competitive non-league football at 20-years-old, turning out for Star Rovers (in 1911), Skelmersdale United (1912), St. Helen’s (1913) and Eccles Borough (1914) before the outbreak of the First World War.
A paviour and flagger by trade, Basnett enlisted in the West Lancashire Regiment (55th Division) in 1914 and served throughout the conflict, gaining notoriety as a talented footballer within the army football ranks. Towards the end of the war, he was gassed in Ypres and invalided home and upon demobilisation from the army he was suggested to sign for First Division club Burnley, despite an offer on the table from former club St. Helen’s.
Basnett signed for Burnley as professional in August 1919, starting his professional football career at the age of 27 after impressing during pre-season practice matches. Starting with the club’s reserve team, but eventually making his Football League debut against Derby County in February 1920, scoring in a 2-0 victory. The half-back made five more appearances before the season end as Burnley finished runners up in the First Division.
The following season, Alf continued to become a more important part of Lancashire club – making 19 appearances for the Clarets as they went one step further and were crowned champions of England in 1920/1921 for the first time in the club’s history. Basnett had come into the team, which would go 30 matches undefeated that season, in February 1921 and kept his place throughout the run-in, which included defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the end-of-season Charity Shield tie in May 1921.
He played in half of the games as Burnley defended their title during the 1921/1922 season, eventually finishing third in the table. Basnett enjoyed a more permanent feature in the side thereafter, despite a downturn in the club’s fortunes on the pitch – finishing 15th (1922/1923) and 17th (1923/124) in consecutive seasons, but narrowly missed out on a place in the 1924 FA Cup Final, losing to Aston Villa in the semi-final.
Alf lost his place in the Burnley team at the start of the 1925/1926 season, making only eight more appearances before being transferred in November 1926 to Lincoln City of the Third Division North for a fee of £600, many onlookers believed that the half-back was of a much higher standard than this. However, Basnett made an instant impression with The Imps, being promoted to captain of the club after just one month after some stellar performances.
Now in his mid-thirties, Basnett was a consistent performer for Lincoln City, as in his first full season (1927/1928) the club narrowly missed out on promotion to the Second Division, finishing runners-up to Bradford Park Avenue. He lost his place in the team in early 1929 and would eventually leave Lincoln in the summer of 1929 after 98 appearances, having scored six goals.
At 37 years old, the opportunity came to move to Ireland to join Irish Cup holders Ballymena for their second season in the Irish League. Seen as an ideal and experienced replacement for the departed John Reid – Basnett slotted into the Showgrounds team immediate but despite a lack of early season form, he settled into a Ballymena that eventually finished fifth (one place higher than their debut season) and reached the final of the Irish Cup once again.
Basnett and his team-mates were unfortunately on the wrong end of a 4-3 scoreline against Linfield in the showpiece final at Celtic Park. It would prove to be one Alf’s last meaningful contributions in a Ballymena shirt, as he left the club to return to England at the end of the 1929/1930 season after 33 appearances and one goal to his name in Sky Blue colours.
The opportunity arose to become player-manager of Hereford Town of the Birmingham & District League (now the West Midlands Regional League) for the 1930/1931 season after one season he returned to Lancashire to finish his career at 40 years old with Nelson FC, with the club just having dropped out of the Football League to join the Lancashire Combination League.
Upon his retirement from football, Alf returned to Lancashire to open a hostelry and passed away in June 1966 in Burnley, aged 73.
(1911) Star Rovers; (1912) Skelmersdale United; (1913) St. Helens; (1914) Eccles Borough; Army Football; (Aug 1919) Burnley; (Nov 1926) Lincoln City; (Jul 1929) Ballymena; (Jul 1930) Hereford Town; (Aug 1931) Nelson
First Division: (winner) 1920/1921; (runner-up) 1919/1920
Charity Shield: (finalist) 1920/1921
(with Lincoln City)
Third Division North: (runner-up) 1927/1928
Irish Cup: (finalist) 1929/1930
Last updated: 16 July 2023