One of the greatest figures in the history of West Bromwich Albion, West Bromwich, Staffordshire born outside right Billy Bassett began his football career with Oak Villa in 1883 and played for West Bromwich Strollers in 1884 and Old Church in 1885 before joining West Bromwich Albion in August 1886, soon becoming the star of Albion’s forward line. His first competitive match was in an FA Cup tie against Wednesbury Old Athletic in October 1887, and when West Bromwich Albion joined the Football League in 1888 he played in their inaugural League match at Stoke that September. By then he had won the FA Cup with Albion when they defeated the mighty Preston North End 2-1 in the Final at The Kennington Oval in March 1888, Bassett setting up the clinching goal.
He played in two further FA Cup Finals, being part of Albion’s team that won the 1892 Final, when The Baggies beat Aston Villa 3-0 at The Kennington Oval, and also playing in the 1895 Final, when Aston Villa got their revenge winning 1-0 with a goal in the opening seconds at The Crystal Palace. He was also a losing semi finalist when defending the trophy in 1889, as Albion lost 1-0 to The Invincibles of Preston North End at Bramall Lane, and in 1891, when they lost to eventual winners Blackburn Rovers at The Victoria Ground, Stoke.
His League career spanned eleven seasons for Albion, and included a hat-trick in a 12-0 thrashing of Darwen in April 1892. He managed a further treble in an 8-0 win at local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in December 1894. On 28th April 1894, Bassett became the first ever West Bromwich Albion player to be sent off, he was dismissed for using “unparliamentary language” in a friendly match away at Millwall. He scored 77 goals in 311 competitive matches for West Bromwich Albion, playing 560 games in total for the club.
He was first selected for England in a 5-1 win over Ireland at The Ulster Cricket Ground, Belfast, in April 1888, and won a total of 16 caps, scoring 7 goals, through to April 1896, when he scored in a 2-1 defeat to Scotland at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Having already retired from club football, he also went on the FA Tour to Germany and Austria in November 1899, scoring twice in four matches. He also represented The Football League in three inter-league matches between 1891 and 1897.
After his retirement in April 1899 Bassett became a coach at West Brom, and subsequently he became an Albion director in August 1905 following the resignation of the previous board in its entirety. The club was in deep financial trouble and had had a writ served upon them by their bank, but Bassett and returning chairman Harry Keys rescued the club, aided by local fund-raising activities. Bassett became the club’s chairman in 1908, and helped the club to avoid bankruptcy once more in 1910 by paying the players’ summer wages from his own pocket. He remained Albion’s chair until his death in 1937. He was a member of the Football League Management Committee and one of the League’s representatives on the Football Association Council. He was also a member of several F.A. committees including the International Selection Committee.