Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Cliff Bastin

Clifford Sydney Bastin was born on 14 March, 1912 in Heavitree near Exeter and died on 4 December 1991 at the age of 79. A stand at St James Park, Exeter’s home ground, is named in his honour.

Cliff was an English football player.

Cliff Bastin started his career at Exeter City, making his debut for the club in 1928, at the age of 16. Despite only playing 17 games and scoring 6 goals in his time at Exeter, he was spotted by Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman in a match against Watford; Herbert Chapman was attending to keep tabs on a Watford player, but the 17-year-old Cliff Bastin’s ability was so evident that Herbert Chapman decided to sign him at the end of the 1928-29 season.

Cliff Bastin played the rest of his career at Arsenal, and formed an integral part of the side that dominated English football in the 1930s. Cliff Bastin scored 178 goals in 395 games, which made him Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer from 1939 until 1997, when his total was surpassed by Ian Wright. In 2005 Thierry Henry passed both Cliff Bastin and Ian Wright’s totals, thus meaning Cliff Bastin is currently (as of December 2006) Arsenal’s third-top goalscorer of all time. Cliff Bastin’s record of 150 league goals for Arsenal stood for slightly longer, until it was equalled by Thierry Henry on 14 January, 2006 and surpassed on 1 February.

Cliff Bastin made his debut against Everton on 5 October, 1929 and was immediately a first team regular, making 21 appearances that season. Cliff Bastin went on to be a near ever-present in the side over the next decade, playing over 35 matches for every season up to and including 1937-38. Cliff Bastin’s youth earned him the nickname “Boy Bastin”, but despite his age Cliff Bastin’s play was characterised by a remarkable coolness, and deadly precision in front of goal; he also became Arsenal’s regular penalty taker. Cliff Bastin’s scoring feats are all the more remarkable considering he played on the left wing rather than as centre forward; at the time Arsenal’s strategy depended heavily on their wingers cutting into the penalty box, and the supply of passes from Alex James was the source of many of his goals.

With Arsenal, Cliff Bastin won the FA Cup twice, in 1929-30 and 1935-36, and the First Division title 5 times, in 1930-31, 1932-33, 1933-34, 1934-35 and 1937-38; by the age of 19 he had won a League title, FA Cup and been capped for England, making him the youngest player ever to do all 3. Cliff Bastin also finished as Arsenal top scorer twice (1932-33 and 1933-34, with 33 and 15 respectively) though after centre-forward Ted Drake arrived in March 1934, Cliff Bastin was no longer Arsenal’s number 1 target man.

With Ted Drake scoring the lion’s share of the goals and Alex James increasingly unavailable due to injury and age, Cliff Bastin was moved to inside-forward to replace Alex James for much of the 1935-36 season, which saw Arsenal drop to 6th; Cliff Bastin still scored 17 goals, including 6 in Arsenal’s run to the 1936 FA Cup Final, which they won 1-0. After a stint at right half to cover for Jack Crayston, Cliff Bastin was eventually restored to the left wing and scored 17 goals in the 1937-38 title-winning season. An injury to his right leg ruled him out of much of the 1938-39 season, the last one played before the outbreak of World War II.

During his career Cliff Bastin also played for England between 1931 and 1938, winning 21 caps and scoring 12 goals his debut coming against Wales at Anfield on 18 November, 1931, which England won 3-1. Highlights of his England career included the famous “Battle of Highbury”, where England defeated 1934 World Cup winners Italy 3-2, and a notorious match against Germany in Berlin in 1938, when the England team was ordered to give the Nazi salute before the match.

The Second World War intervened when Bastin was 27, thus cutting short what should have been the peak of his career. Cliff Bastin was excused military service he failed the army hearing test owing to his increasing deafness. Thus, during the war, he served as an ARP Warden, being stationed on top of Highbury stadium with Tom Whittaker. Cliff Bastin also played matches in the war-time league to boost civilian morale. In 1941, Fascist Italy’s propaganda broadcast on Rome Radio, contained a bizarre claim that Cliff Bastin had been captured in the Battle of Crete, and was being detained in Italy; the Italians were seemingly unaware that Cliff Bastin was deaf and had been excused service.

Cliff Bastin’s injured leg had hampered his performances in wartime matches, and would ultimately curtail his career. After the war was over, Cliff Bastin, by now in his thirties, would only play 7 more times (failing to score in any of them) before retiring in January 1947. After retirement, Cliff Bastin returned to his native Exeter and ran a pub.

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