FROM YEOVIL TO NEW ZEALAND


Your late teens are often when some of life’s biggest choices are made. What do you want to do as a career? Where do you want to live? In what direction are you going to go?

For one former Yeovil Town player, the answer was ‘down under,’ upping sticks and moving from a sleepy Leicestershire village to the hustle and bustle of New Zealand’s capital city.

“I really wasn’t sure I’d made the right decision and after the first couple of months I thought I’d be coming home,” Ollie Bassett told The Independent on a crackly phone line having just got home from a day of training.

The dodgy connection can be forgiven. After all, the Indy are in the UK and he is on the other side of the world, 11 hours ahead.

Bassett moved to New Zealand on a whim after his career took an unexpected turn following his release from Yeovil in 2017, where a trial at Burton Albion would bring up what was to define his next couple of years as a footballer.

While training with Burton, having headed back home and taken up a part time role with Coalville Town – a mere few miles from the family home – the opportunity of a lifetime popped up.

“Their academy manager Danny Robinson had 15 or 16 years in New Zealand and he said to me ‘do you want to go abroad? I thought at the time he was just referring to Europe, maybe Spain or somewhere but then he said New Zealand.

“I wasn’t sure as you never really put football and New Zealand together, but I just thought I’d give it a go.”

With his life in a couple of suitcases and nothing but himself for company, Bassett made the big move in May 2018, heading for New Zealand ISPS Handa Premiership outfit Waitakere United, a club known to Burton’s Robinson.

“I had no clue what to expect at all but it was either this or probably stay at home and play non-league again for another year. “I just thought I should go and see how it is and if I like it, then I like it and if I don’t then I can come back.”

After a season with the club, scoring four times in 18, Team Wellington, the second side in the Kiwi capital, came calling.

Alongside reigning champions Auckland City, Team Wellington are one of the most successful teams on the islands, winning the league title in 2016 and 2017, as well as the Oceania Champions League in 2018.

A perfect fit then for a player who in his opening six matches for his new club has notched five goals and four assists, including a brace of penalties in last weekend’s 3-2 win at Eastern Suburbs.

“Hundred per cent we’re going for the title and challenging Auckland City. We have a great set of lads and want to win every game. We want to win the league and then try and get back into the Champions League and Club World Cup.”

Bassett is grateful for his chance, however things could have been much different if he had stayed in Somerset with the Glovers.

It was an injury crisis at Town that gave him his chance as ten players on the treatment table left manager Paul Sturrock with little choice but to call up youth team members.

On entering the field against Crawley Town, Bassett became the youngest Yeovil Town player in the club’s Football League history – 17 years, six months and 13 days. He held the record until this year when Devon Arnold took the crown by a whole five months on New Year’s Day.

“I didn’t know at the time until the manager told me after the game. It was a really weird day, and I don’t really remember much about it to be honest.

“He called me into the squad on the Thursday before the game, but I really had no idea I’d be the youngest.”

Now aged 21 and into his 18th month away from home, Bassett is revelling in his new way of life. A country more known for their world famous rugby team, football is a sport not even in the top three most-played in the nation, but Bassett says the standard of the game is much better than most people would think.

“I’ve been asked this question so many times. It’s a lot better than what people think and what people give it credit for. The league has some good players and tends to be really competitive.

“I’d probably say it’s like the National League North it’s hard to say because it’s a different type of game with different types of player.”

As any footballer knows though, Bassett is aware his career could change in an instant and he hasn’t ruled out another international move in the future thanks to his hunger for full time football.

“I want to get back to playing full time again in the future, and as long as the standard is right and the league is right, I really would go anywhere in the world. I don’t have any limits at all.”

For now though, he’s happy where he is – scoring goals and challenging for titles.

“I haven’t been home since I moved and I haven’t looked back.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.