FBJoin the Exeter Memories Group Page

Cliff Bastin

Return to Exeter People Menu

Probably the greatest footballer to be born in Exeter, Cliff Bastin became Arsenal's highest goal scorer until Ian Wright in the 1990's, and was a stalwart of the 1930's England team.

Clifford Sidney Bastin was born in 40 New North Road, close to the Old Fire House, on 14th March 1912, to Sidney Henry Bastin, a dairyman's assistant and Maud Bastin (nee Butt). His family had moved to 190 Pinhoe Road by 1915, according to the street directories. Bastin showed promise as a talented footballer playing as a schoolboy for Ladysmith School when they won the Football Express Elementary Schools Challenge Cup in 1925, and the English Schools in 1926. He scored six goals for Ladysmith in April 1926 when they beat Newtown 7-1 in the Exeter Schools' Final at St James' Park. Later, Bastin returned to the school to be presented with his England cap by the Mayor; he would also visit the school every summer with his international caps and medals and talk to the boys.

His first game for Exeter City was with the Reserves in the Southern League against Bath City on Christmas Eve 1927, when he scored twice. Bastin's first game for Exeter City was on 14 April 1928, at the age of 16 years and 1 month. The match was against Coventry City and was a 0-0 draw. On his home début, the young Bastin scored twice in City's 5-1 win over Newport County. He scored 6 goals for Exeter in total by his 17th and last match. His record for Exeter was:

1927/28 3 appearances, 3 goals
1928/29 14 appearances, 3 goals

Herbert Chapman, the Arsenal manager had been tipped off about a Watford player came down to St James' Park to watch him play against Exeter. However, he was so impressed by the young Bastin, a left winger, that he decided to sign him at the end of the season. Bastin had to be persuaded to join Arsenal, and after he agreed, he went out for a game of tennis. He cost Arsenal, £2,000 and joined the club on 27 April 1929. Nicknamed 'Boy Bastin' in his time with Arsenal, between 1929 and 1947, Bastin scored 150 League goals and 26 FA Cup goals and was part of an Arsenal FA Cup winning side in 1930 and 1936. He was part of the Arsenal team that won the First Division five times in the 1930's. In the 1931-32 season, he scored 28 goals in 42 games and was the sides regular penalty taker. He was also the sides highest goal scorer in the 1932/33 and 1933/34 seasons, scoring 33 and 15 respectively. His début for England was in 1931 and went on to be capped 21 times, finishing his international career in 1938.

Cliff Bastin played in the notorious friendly against Germany in May 1938 when the players gave the Nazi salute in the pre-game ceremonies. England won 3-6 against a side that had a 16 game winning streak. Cliff Bastin scored the first goal. Less controversially, Bastin appeared in the film "The Arsenal Stadium Mystery" in 1939. The last game at Highbury, before the outbreak of the Second War against Brentford was used for filming the shots of the game in the film. The war intervened when he was only 27. He was excused war service for failing the army hearing test, and served as an ARP Warden at the Highbury Stadium. His film appearance in 1939 was not his last - in 1942, Cliff Bastin played a footballer in the classic British war film "One of our aircraft is missing". He continued to play football in the war-time league that was instituted for raising civilian morale. Bizarrely, Mussolini's Fascist Italian Radio claimed in 1941 that he had been captured in the Battle for Crete. He didn't play football again until after the war, when he played 6 times, to retire in January 1947, having suffered with an injury to his right leg in the 1938/9 season.

Cliff Bastin scored 178 goals in 395 games for Arsenal, a record that remained until Ian Wright in 1997. In 1950, three years after his retirement, a 19 year old Brian Glanville approached Cliff Bastin with the idea of writing his biography. Bastin agreed and Glanville would meet him on Sunday nights, in a room above the café on the North Circular Road, that he ran with his wife. Glanville patiently teased out his life story, trying to ensure accuracy, as Bastin was becoming very deaf. During these sessions, Bastin's wife would supply the pair with thick cut cheese sandwiches. The biography was published in 1950 after Glanville's father paid out £400 for the costs. Ironically, a single copy with the original dust jacket will sell for around £200 today. Cliff Bastin went on to run the Horse and Groom. He spent his final years at 190 Pinhoe Road, Whipton, in the house he lived in as a child and died in 1991 at the age of 79 in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. Exeter City have named one of its stands after him in his honour. Cliff Bastin can be seen playing in the video Manchester United: The Official History 1878-2002.

Cliff Basin in his Arsenal strip

Top of Page