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Cliff Bastin

Cliff Bastin was Arsenal's most prolific scorer until Ian Wright in the 1990's.  During a golden era for the club, he formed a legendary partnership with Alex James with helped secured five championships during the 1930s.

Clifford Sidney Bastin, Clifford Sidney, was born in Exeter on 14 March. He was educated at Ladysmith Road elementary school, where he showed a precocious talent for football. He was soon playing for Exeter Boys, and was capped for England Schoolboys against Wales when he was fourteen. After turning out for local recreational teams St Mark's and St James's, and starting training as an electrician, he was signed for Exeter City, then in the third division south; he made his first team début on 14 April 1928, at the remarkably early age of sixteen years and one month.

Not long after his professional début, Bastin was spotted playing against Watford by the Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman. Chapman had gone to look at Tommy Barnett, a member of the Watford team, but was more impressed by the neat, stocky young man with fair hair and the fashionable down-the-middle parting who was playing inside left for Exeter. The fee was £2000. Alex James was also signed from Preston a few weeks later and though eleven years older than Bastin formed a left-wing partnership with him which became a major attacking feature of the Arsenal side that dominated English football in the 1930s. Tom Whittaker, a later Arsenal manager, once said: "He had a trait few of us are blessed with an ice-cold nerve."

Bastin made his Arsenal début away at Everton on 5 October 1929 and scored his first goal for the team in a home match against Sheffield Wednesday at the beginning of January 1930.  His total of 178 goals for the club in 396 games remained an Arsenal record until 1997 and was a remarkable total for a winger. Cool and intelligent, he could shoot well with either foot and was always looking for goalmouth opportunities. In 1930 he was the youngest player to date to appear in the cup final (only Howard Kendall was younger, in 1964), and he supplied the pass for James to score the crucial first goal. When Arsenal won the first division championship for the first time in 1930–31, Bastin scored 28 goals; he scored 33 when they repeated the feat two seasons later. He played twenty-one times for England between 1931 and 1938, and scored the goal which gave them a draw against Italy in Rome in 1933; on this occasion the home crowd chanted ‘Basta Bastin’ (‘enough of Bastin’) .

Bastin's form declined in the late 1930s as he suffered increasingly from deafness after a bout of influenza led to an infection of the middle ear in 1936.  He
had big problems with his left knee cartilage which was occasionally displaced during matches. Whittaker, who was Arsenal's 'trainer' and secretary before becoming manager and presiding over their 1953 League title win, often snapped the joint back in place at half-time turning a deaf ear himself to Bastin's cries of agony.

By the early 1940s he could not hear the roar of the crowd. He was still able to play 241 wartime games and score 70 wartime goals but he later admitted that his loss of hearing had undermined his footballing effectiveness. During the war he was declared unfit for military service and managed an ARP post on the top of the main stand at Highbury.

Bastin retired from football in September 1946, his last appearance for Arsenal being against Manchester United. He and his wife ran a café on the North Circular Road for a time. He also wrote a football column for the Sunday Pictorial.  Later Bastin returned to Exeter, where he became landlord of the Horse and Groom pub, from which he retired in 1977. He died in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Wonford, Exeter, on 3 December 1991, of myelofibrosis and renal failure.