Darren Shaun Bazeley (born 5 October 1972 in Northampton, England) is an English footballer. He played as either a right full back or right-sided defensive midfielder. He remained in New Zealand and is now Football Development Manager for the Northern Football Federation.
Bazeley was born in Northampton, England and began playing football at a young age with local team Northampton Orion. From 11 to 13 years old, Bazeley attended weekly training sessions with the School of Excellence – a coaching scheme run by the FA. It was through these sessions that Bazeley was scouted by Watford F.C., trialling with them before signing at the age of 14. Bazeley played in the youth team at Watford for several seasons, making his first-team debut at the age of 17, coming on as a substitute in the final match of the 1989-90 season against Hull City A.F.C. Bazeley made sporadic first-team appearances throughout the 1990-91 season with Watford, and before the 1991-92 season became a full professional. Bazeley’s first top-grade goal came in September 1991, away at Barnsley F.C., and finished the season with a total of six goals from his 34 appearances. At the end of the season, Bazeley broke into the England Under-21 national team, making his first (and only) appearance, playing 20 minutes in a 2-2 friendly draw against Hungary. Bazeley played 22 matches in the 1992–93 season before tearing his medial collateral ligament during 1993-94, which saw him play a total of just 10 matches in that season. Under Glenn Roeder, Watford finished seventh in Division 1 in 1994–95, with Bazeley scoring four goals in his 28 appearances.
The following season, however, saw Watford relegated to Division 2 in the final match of the 1995-96 season. Bazeley spent two seasons with Watford in Division 2 under Graham Taylor, winning the Division 2 Championship in 1997–98, then making the play-offs for promotion to the FA Premier League the following season. Bazeley scored in the penalty shootout against Birmingham City F.C. to put Watford in the play-off final against Bolton Wanderers F.C., which they won 2-0 to earn a move to the top flight.
This marked the end of Bazeley’s contract with Watford, and instead of re-signing to join them in the Premiership, he chose to end his 10-year, 239-game career with the Hornets. Bazeley’s time at Watford saw him net 27 goals, including a hat-trick at Southend. Bazeley’s departure left fans with mixed feelings, recalling times of “exquisite brilliance” but also frustration at his tendency to provide inaccurate and unsuccessful crosses into the penalty area. Bazeley moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. on a free transfer, where he played every minute of every league match for the Wolves in the 1999–2000 season.
By the end of 2000–01, Bazeley had notched up 80 games and four goals with Wolverhampton, before twisting his knee and tearing his cartilage in a match against Sheffield Wednesday F.C., and subsequently did not play a match in the 2001–02 season. Bazeley’s future was somewhat uncertain until his former manager at Watford and Wolves, Colin Lee, moved to Walsall F.C., with Bazeley following on a free transfer in Summer 2002. Bazeley won the fans’ “best new signing award” in 2002–03, his first season with the club. Committed to Walsall for two seasons, Bazeley travelled to New Zealand to trial with the Auckland Kingz after the 2003–04 season alongside Saddlers teammate Danny Hay, and was offered a contract with the NSL club. Bazeley however decided to stay with Walsall for 2004-05, but left the club in November 2004, after making 89 league appearances. He was later described as “one of the best attacking fullbacks the Saddlers ever had”.
Bazeley signed with the re-invented New Zealand Knights for the new Australian A-League, alongside former Wolves and Walsall teammate Neil Emblen. Bazeley played every minute of New Zealand’s 21 A-League matches in the 2005–06 season, and took over the captaincy from Danny Hay when the defender transferred to Perth Glory FC midseason. Bazeley stayed with the Knights for 2006–07 until the club’s dissolution.
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