Bassett Keen For Professional Return With Pacific FC
It was just a few days ago that Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC announced the signing of Ollie Bassett, a 23-year-old attacking midfielder who developed with the likes of Aston Villa, Southampton, and Yeovil Town. The last few years have seen the England-born midfielder play through a variety of levels throughout England, New Zealand, and Australia, with his recent landing in the Canadian Premier League sparking an air of mystery: in short, he’s a low risk, high reward type of signing.
Like many recent Canadian Premier League arrivals, Ollie’s announcement came some time after the ink was dry on his contract. On paper, the move was actually completed around Christmas-time, with his entry to Canada being delayed due to visa difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While that roadblock has resulted in the cancellation of contracts for other international athletes like Nestor Monge or Matias Roskopf in the last few weeks alone, Bassett’s arrival was made possible by 23-year-old routing himself through a neutral country and then through the US – instead of travelling from England to Canada, the midfielder had to go from Europe to Cancun, Cancun to Seattle, and Seattle to Vancouver over a five week period, which ticked enough bureaucratic boxes for him to get his work visa approved upon arrival to the west coast.
With the red tape now sorted, Bassett has already completed his quarantine in British Columbia and, for the first time since he left Yeovil Town as a teenager, is back to his roots in professional football. It’s been a long time coming for a player who developed with the likes of Aston Villa and Southampton, with the 23-year-old now in the midst of getting back up to full training fitness before joining the rest of the Pacific FC squad on the Starlight Stadium pitch.
After playing for nine clubs in the last six years, the Leicestershire-born midfielder is keen to test himself at the Canadian Premier League level and, perhaps, find some stability after a sustained period of frequent moving. Like many athletes now in the burgeoning domestic league, he believes a strong stint in Canada could be used to springboard his playing career elsewhere, too.
It’s a case of trying to play at the highest level I possibly can, whether that be in North America, Europe, or wherever that may be, but maybe just some stability as well – like playing at a club, getting comfortable in it with the team environment for longer than a season, I don’t think that would be a bad thing to do, whether that’s with Pacific or anyone else. Hopefully, I’ll get some stability and if the opportunity comes to go play at a higher level, then we can have a look at that if it ever comes up.Ollie Bassett
This isn’t Bassett’s first time playing abroad, with the midfielder having left his native England to play in New Zealand and Australia over the last three years or so. New Zealand side Waitakere United used him more on the left in 2018, but a switch to a more central number ten role with Team Wellington in 2019 saw Bassett form a prolific partnership with Hamish Watson. When the 2019 season concluded, the former Northern Ireland Youth International had accrued some six goals and eight assists after just ten games, a figure that should turn heads regarding his potential at the CPL level.
After having spent two seasons in New Zealand, Bassett took an offseason vacation to Australia and liked what he saw during visits to Melbourne and Sydney, with that interest leading to a move to the St Albans Saints. His time in Australia was short-lived due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as things shut down he left to trial for TOP Oss in the Dutch second division. When that didn’t pan out, he returned to England to keep fit and be close to family during the pandemic.
The Nuneaton thing was to be close to home and still play some games at a relatively good level. It’s a level that I think is probably overlooked, because you say to someone that you’re playing in the seventh tier of English football and they’ll say ‘that’s not great’, but there’s actually some good players in that league as well.Ollie Bassett
With the lower divisions of English football facing a lot of uncertainty as the new year approached, Bassett found himself once again seeking playing opportunities overseas. There were a few leads, but Bassett’s connection to the Canadian Premier League actually began in 2019 with some familiar faces: he knew inaugural Valour FC athletes Stephen Hoyle and Dylan Sacramento from their collective playing time in New Zealand, with Hoyle connecting Bassett to his agent at Eikon Sports Group. Bassett found himself immediately interested in the Canadian Premier League, with the duo chatting as time went on.
I told him if the opportunity ever came up, to get me out here to play in the CPL, and that it would definitely be something I’d be interested in. For me, it was just about getting back into training full time and playing in a professional league again, which I haven’t done since I left Yeovil as an 18 year old. For me, that was one of the most important things. The CPL is still a young league and it’s still developing, and I think it can only get better.Ollie Bassett
In 2020, his early conversations with Eikon sparked negotiations with Pacific FC and culminated with head coach Pa-Modou Kah adding another sharp-looking midfielder to a roster already containing the likes of Marco Bustos, Manny Aparicio, Matthew Baldisimo, Jamar Dixon, and Victor Blasco.
While Hoyle and Sacramento no longer ply their trade in the domestic league, Bassett won’t be the only former NZFC athlete now playing in Canada: new Cavalry FC striker Ahinga Selemani also joined the league, which means Bassett will be suiting up against at least one familiar face.
His journey here has seen him play at several levels across England, New Zealand, and Australia, with the former Northern Ireland Youth International eager to return to professional action after having developed at the academy level with Aston Villa, Southampton, and Yeovil Town. In fact, he was still a young academy prospect with Yeovil when his first chance at the senior professional level arose with little warning.
At the time I was doing my second year scholarship with the youth team, and the old manager at the time, Paul Sturrock his name was, he had a lot of injuries with the first team. I think they had about 8 or 9 first team players out injured. He only called me up to train with the first team on the Wednesday or the Thursday during that week, so I trained with them two or three times and then started the game on Saturday in the Football League.Ollie Bassett
His debut was a history-making moment for Yeovil Town, with a then-17-year-old Bassett becoming the youngest Yeovil Town player to appear in the Football League at the time. He appeared for the side once more the following week, this time in front of a home crowd cheering him on, and then signed his first professional contract with the side a few weeks later.
His record-making appearances for Yeovil Town attracted a good scale of interest, with the Northern Ireland U-19 team putting him on their radar and eventually inviting him to a camp. Eligible through his Belfast-born mother, Bassett took well to the opportunity and ended up appearing for the team in a European Championship Qualifier against Slovakia, though the match ended 1-0 in favour of the latter.
By that point, the head coach at Yeovil Town had been replaced and Bassett found himself loaned out to Dorchester Town on three occasions before the club released him at the end of the 2016-2017 season. The attacking midfielder began plying his trade for a variety of different clubs in the English lower leagues before jumping over to New Zealand and, eventually, Australia. Now with Pacific, there’ll be plenty of eyes watching to see how he performs in his return to professional football.
To be honest, I’m not sure too much on the CPL level until I start playing and training properly with the boys. New Zealand was good, there’s definitely some good players in New Zealand that could probably be playing at a higher level, but I think some of them just enjoy the lifestyle there and being so close to Australia as well. Certainly, this’ll be a step up from playing there so hopefully I can adapt quickly and once I’m settled in start playing my football.Ollie Bassett
While the Canadian Premier League has a fairly high turnover rate for international signings, Bassett isn’t worried about having limited time to impress on the pitch and prove his worth with the Tridents: he states that if he plays how he knows he can, absorbs what Pa-Modou Kah is asking of him, and takes his chance when it’s given, he’ll establish a good platform to build from.
The goal this year for me is to play as much as I can this season, and take the opportunity when it comes. Hopefully, I’ll do well enough for Pa to want to keep me signed for next year. I’m not really looking too much into next season yet, I just want to focus on this season, hopefully have a good season, and take it game by game.Ollie Bassett
With Bassett having played in a number of midfield positions in the past (including as a number ten, an eight, or out wide on the left), it’s not clear where the Pacific FC head coach thinks Bassett will be best utilized. The Island Games saw the west coast side establish a fast-paced, counter-attacking identity that carved open opposition defenses, a system which suits a player like Bassett who has a good eye for the last pass and the capability of adding to the goal tally himself.
Like fans from coast-to-coast, Bassett is now awaiting news on when the 2021 Canadian Premier League season will kick off, and what format it’ll be in: rumours of a bubble or even a dual-bubble system have remained consistent, though the head office had initially hoped for home markets to be a possibility. The CPL has pledged that it remains committed to a 2021 season, and Bassett has a firm belief it’ll happen.
Some six months after his last competitive match, Pacific FC’s newest signing is simply eager to test himself in professional action once more. While Pacific FC has begun preseason training, Bassett has been working from the sidelines as he gets back to match fitness in order to avoid any injuries.
Whenever they feel the time is right, then maybe I can join in with a proper session. Certainly for the last few days, I’ve just been doing a bit on the side which has been good. It’s been nice to get touches on the ball again, which is something I’ve not had for a while.Ollie Bassett
With the arrival of Bassett, the west coast side has now rostered 21 players ahead of the upcoming season (22 counting the loaned-out Emil Gazdov), though it was recently confirmed that defender Duran Lee will miss the season due to an Achilles tendon injury. With the midfield looking fairly stacked, it’s likely that any further signings might bring in more defensive depth to the side.
Pacific FC did not disclose the length or financial details of Bassett’s contract with the club.