Cliff Bastin
Cliff Bastin

Cliff Bastin

Fading memories, or simply the youth of voters, means that polls to determine football's 'greatest' can easily be skewed towards the modern game. However, some players transcend those boundaries - and Cliff Bastin is among them.

His heyday was the 1930s but, nearly 80 years on, Bastin is still remembered with affection and still commands respect from fans of all ages. Hence his position at No 18 when Arsenal.com ran its Gunners' Greatest Players poll in the summer of 2008.

Profile

Name Cliff Bastin
Arsenal Career 1929 - 1946
Position:
Appearances 396 (396 starts, 0 as a sub)
Goals 178

Of course, Bastin's name registered with fans who started watching Arsenal as recently as 1997 because it was in September of that year when Ian Wright eclipsed the great man's goalscoring record for the Club. Thierry Henry, of course, has since pushed Bastin down to third place in that illustrious chart.

Nonetheless, Bastin's haul of 178 goals in 395 games is a remarkable tally, particularly for a player who operated as an 'outside left' in Herbert Chapman's all-conquering side.

Alex James to Bastin to the back of the net was so often the route to glory for that legendary team thanks to Chapman's innovative tactics. While other sides relied on wingers to provide goals for their centre forward, Arsenal's wingers cut in from the flanks to latch onto a regular supply of through-balls from Scottish international James. No one profited more than Bastin.

His scoring record certainly vindicated Chapman's decision to sign Bastin when he was just a teenager. The Arsenal manager spotted him playing for Exeter City and, although the 17-year-old had played just 17 times for the Devon club, Chapman was so impressed he signed him at the end of the 1928/29 season.

'Boy' Bastin played the rest of his career at Highbury. He made 21 appearances in his first season - ending that campaign with an FA Cup winner's medal - and was soon a regular fixture in the side.

The honours flowed. By the age of 19 Bastin had won a League title, the FA Cup and an England cap, making him the youngest player to achieve that particular hat-trick. In total he scooped five League titles with Arsenal and added a second FA Cup triumph in 1936.

The arrival of centre forward Ted Drake in March 1934 forced Bastin to adapt his game and position. While Drake scored the lion's share of Arsenal goals, injuries to James meant Bastin assumed the role of creator. However, he still scored 17 goals in the 1935/36 campaign.

He was back in his favourite position of outside left and contributed 17 goals in another title season in 1937/38 and, as he reached his mid-20s, Bastin's best years still seemed to be ahead of him.

It was not to be. Injuries sidelined Bastin for much of the following campaign before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 cut short his glittering career. The conflict surely cost Bastin further honours and - quite possibly - a goals tally than even Henry and Wright might have struggled to match.