Arsenal Best Attackers Ever: No10 – Arsenal Top Goal Scorer for 58 Years!

Arsenal’s Century Club – Cliff Bastin

Clifff Bastin in action (1) 

Born in Heavitree near Exeter, Cliff started his career at Exeter City, making his début 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; Chapman was attending to keep tabs on a Watford player, but the 17-year-old Bastin’s ability was so evident that Chapman decided to sign him at the end of the 1928-29 season.

He made his début against Everton on 5 October 1929 and was immediately a first team regular, making 21 appearances that season. He went on to become an integral player in the side over the next decade, playing over 35 matches for every season up to and including 1937-38. His play was characterised by a remarkable coolness, and deadly precision in front of goal; he also became Arsenal’s regular penalty taker. Cliff’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.

Cliff Basin team picture (1)

Cliff won the FA Cup twice, in 1929-30 and 1935-36, and the First Division title five times, in 1930-31, 1932-33, 1933-34, 1934-35 and 1937-38 and by the age of nineteen he had won a League title, FA Cup and been capped for England, making him the youngest player ever to do all three. Cliff also finished as Arsenal top scorer twice (1932–33 and 1933–34, though after centre-forward Ted Drake arrived in March 1934, Cliff was no longer Arsenal’s number one target man. With Drake scoring the lion’s share of the goals and Alex James increasingly unavailable due to injury and age, Cliff was moved to inside-forward to replace James for much of the 1935-36 season but he still scored 17 goals, including six 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, he was eventually restored to the left wing and scored 17 goals in the 1937-38 title-winning season.

Cliff Bastin 1 (1)

Cliff was a key part of the side that dominated English football in the 1930s. He scored 178 goals in 396 games, which made him Arsenal’s all-time top goal scorer from 1939 until 1997, when his total was surpassed by Ian Wright. In 2005 Thierry Henry passed both Bastin and Wright’s totals, thus meaning Bastin is currently Arsenal’s third-top goal scorer of all time. His 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.

During his career Cliff also played for England between 1931 and 1938, winning 21 caps and scoring 12 goals. Cliff played in the notorious friendly against Germany in May 1938 when the players gave the Nazi salute in the pre-game ceremonies. England won 6-3 against a side that had a 16 game winning streak – Cliff 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 scored his 100th goal for Arsenal on October 28th, 1933 against Aston Villa in an away game at Villa Park.

Arsenal’s Century Club
# Player Years Games ** Goals GPG
10 Cliff Bastin 1929-46 396 174 178 0.45
11 Thierry Henry 1999-07 377 181 226 0.60
12 Olivier Giroud 2012-18 253 237 105 0.42
13 RVP 2004-12 278 238 132 0.47
14 Alan Smith 1987-95 347 251 115 0.33
15 Frank Stapleton 1972-81 300 276 108 0.36
16 Denis Bergkamp 1995-06 423 296 120 0.28
17 John Radford 1962-76 481 306 149 0.31
18 Joe Hulme 1926-38 374 307 125 0.33
19 Theo Walcott 2005-18 397 370 108 0.27
** Games played to reach 100 goals.

After retirement, Cliff returned to his native Exeter and became landlord of The Three Tuns at Silverton, and then ran the Horse & Groom public house in Heavitree, Exeter. A stand at St James Park, Exeter’s home ground, is named in his honour and in 2009 he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

He died in 1991 at the age of 79.

As a kid I was familiar with the name Cliff Bastin as my family often spoke about him at their “discussions” after each game. I had his picture in my scrap book, (cut out of newspapers) but unfortunately he retired after the 1946/47 season, one season before I started to go to games.


35 thoughts on “Arsenal Best Attackers Ever: No10 – Arsenal Top Goal Scorer for 58 Years!

  • Cheers, GN5, that is a great post again! 🙂

    A real shame you just missed out on seeing him. I am assuming that it was only the Germans who did the N-salute?!

  • DailyAFC™
    The International Football Association Board will allow teams to make five substitutions per match to help them cope with returning from football’s coronavirus-enforced break. [Sky Sports] #afc

  • Total, there was a bit of a furore before that Germany vs England game regarding the Nazi salute, I think that the FA insisted that the England team make the salute because of the situation in Europe at the time, probably around the time of Neville Chamberlains “peace in our time” speech. So everyone was careful of not wanting to offend anyone.

    I’m not 100% but I think the German team included a few members of the Austrian National team that obviously disappeared after Austria’s annexation. I don’t think that the Austrians put their heart and soul into it…

  • 17HT posted a comment late on in the last post:

    OK, Nobody wants to talk about (my) Japanese cars…
    So, I’ll weigh in on (my) feelings about the last three posts in the “Quickest to 100” series…
    Having only fallen into the N5 (at 17HT…) in September of 2006, I only really experienced Thierry Henry as an injured Arsenal player. His reputation was still very intact–despite the questions about the CL final (who WAS he really playing for on that day, what with all the off to Barca talk?…) but I NEVER saw the guy featured in the song (to the tune of Kum-ba-ya… “We’ve got the best player in the world (x3)…Thierry Henry…”) That said, I have seen The Invicibles video (which is actually titled “The Untouchables” due to some sort of copyright issue)…and it really is ALL (or mostly…) Titi… “Unplayable,” I think, is what defenders called him…and, his very presence–in full flight–opened the rest of the pitch for the other runners/passers (Vieira, Bergkamp, Pires, Freddy, Ashley, etc…) to do their thing.
    By contrast, RVP and Ollie, were far more mortal…and different ends of the talent spectrum, really. (You can’t teach size, they might say about Giroud, in an effort to be charitable)… RVP leaving (and Giroud arriving) was a REAL low moment in the back half of the Wenger era, no matter how the manager tried to spin it. (“He’s really an old style English CF,” Arsene said, I’m pretty sure, about Ollie). I recall watching him (for the first time) with France at the 2012 Euros…and thinking, “uh oh…”
    I think that BOTH guys suffered in trying to fill Henry’s shoes (though at least neither was “born offside” like Adebayor)… Henry’s abilities (and the Arsenal teams he spearheaded) meant that parking the bus was the way to play against our club, by the back half of the aughts… RvP had a clever provider in Cesc (and Nasri, and even Alex Song during that one big 30 goal season), but Giroud’s accomplishments are probably all the more impressive given that he had to share pitch-space with the uber-selfish Alexis Sanchez, who really wouldn’t pass the ball to anybody (without complaining, at least) whose name wasn’t Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla having been shifted to a deeper slot and Running Rambo, with his head looking down at the ball…when he wasn’t injured…
    I’m not sure if Giroud was all that much a better person than RvP–his wife might tell you why we had to start Yaya Sanogo in one of those CL debacles vs Bayern–and, if only he could’ve converted that opening day chance little Santi put on a plate for him on–the day they both debuted…well, then perhaps my introduction to Bergkampesque (trying to argue with a guy who posted as “Highbury Harmony” about staying positive about our players)…might not have been as fun…or challenging… Still, the one (Ollie), in the end, seemed a real professional who made the most of his talents, whereas RvP will always seem at least a bit of a wastrel–probably even to ManU fans as he couldn’t help them bridge a way forward when they lost THEIR legendary manager…
    Enough said, and still some things to do before the (“work”) week closes…
    Happy Friday…

  • Thanks for explaining that, Kev. The English were not the only ones not seeing the danger in time. Luckily, Churchill did…

  • On May 14, 1938, more than 100,000 soccer fans filed into Berlin’s Olympic Stadium to watch the English team trounce Germany. At this pre-World War II moment, the two countries were still making gestures toward diplomacy while eying each other warily. During the game, swastikas and British flags flew side by side in the packed stadium, while the German national anthem blared over the loudspeakers. Then, on the field below, the German — and the British — players raised their arms in the Nazi salute.

    The British press was shocked. What were British soccer players doing making a fascist gesture? Turns out the salute had been ordered in advance by the British Foreign Office as part of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s plan to avoid conflict by appeasing Hitler. The bizarre gesture of diplomacy and the broader policy of appeasement toward Hitler was, of course, a mistake. Just over a year later, Germany would invade Poland, prompting the British and French to declare war. The wheels of war were already in motion on the day of the soccer match, but it’s only natural to see the image of British players heiling Hitler as a warning about what can happen if you give a Nazi an inch: they try to take the world.

  • I will write in 2 parts: One to Cliff Bastin, and one to 17ht.

    Part 1: Cars.
    17ht, Suzuki is a good car, small, and easy to drive around, but in long distances the comfort becomes an issue. And if you have 5 people in the car it is worse.
    Datsun (We have the same make (brand) here in Singapore, we call it Nissan) is another car of Japanese engineering genius. Born in 1973 and still working brilliantly now is really a good example of how hardy they are.

    TA, for our passport, we can travel to anywhere in the world without Visa. So going to Malaysia and Thailand (we rather fly into Thailand rather than taking a loooong road trip) is easy for us. Show our passport and in we go. Lately Thailand gave Singaporeans a way to beat the queue in the customs by allowing us to scan our passports and our thumb. It is a breeze that way.

    Kev, Mitsubishi Galant is a good car. A little bigger than Lancer, it is what you expect a Japanese car to be. Long lasting. Love the car I am driving, and nowadays I am thinking of getting either a second-hand car or a brand new one at a good price.

    Part 2: Football
    Back to football. Cliff Bastin is a good striker, and to see that only Ian Wright and Henry bettered him in goals scored, it really meant that he is a wonderful player in his generation.
    And for him to be playing in the pre and post world war is no mean feat. And it showed how footballers in the olden days endured and how their mentality was so much different from the players of the modern world.

  • I know nothing at all about cars, other than driving for 60 years. I mainly drove leased company cars with Honda’s and Nissan’s being my personal preference, On retirement I purchased a Nissan Maxima I drove that until I decided to sell it and stop driving.

  • Thanks for clarifying that, GN5. How they wished later to have shown the ‘V’ sign (looking at the palms of their own hands) instead!

    Cheers, 84. Sounds like the Thai people like Singaporeans a lot. I wonder why? 🙂

  • TA, because lots of Singaporeans go there for sightseeing and buying stuff. Good for the Thai economy.

    Sounds like the Movietone News is well liked back then. Apparently the lads back then were in Berlin, and nothing you can do much to not try to appease them.

  • Sorry for the off-topic comment, but happy birthday to Dennis Bergkamp!

  • Hey guys! Nice to see you’ve kept it going, thanks to GN5 and the general state of things which provide food for thought/talk. Been rather busy this period, having to be alert just about every day of the week as I am involved in a project involving financing for SMEs and the food value chain; things got accentuated with the effort at providing financial packages for the SMEs and households affected by the pandemic. A tougher prospect in these parts, I promise you.

    I have been following all the articles posted by GN5 in Catch-up mode. Just as I am priming myself for a comment, TA goes “New Post!” and I promise I’d be quicker on the draw the next time. Never that lucky; such a shame posts about the greatest player of our club and another beloved French striker could have gone without much commentary, but such is the stark hopelessness this whole virus scenario has painted, it’s hard to focus. One can only hope life even returns to normal, after this.

  • Cliff Bastin is, perhaps, the only player for Arsenal from the 30s era whose name I recall easily and that’s because he remained all time highest scorer for so long and because he was an England International too. You had to be good to be such a consistent scorer, even where your role was changed to accommodate a new striker. Can’t say much about his character but from what GN5 has penned down about him, he must have had a great deal of humility in him to serve as a Warden at the stadium, but I know the footballers at the time weren’t as well paid as the prima-donnas we have to watch these days.

    Thierry Henry was very subdued and humble off the pitch (even shy); on the pitch, he was a different animal who understood his capability(it’s) and never shied away from testing it to the limit in the games. He had a great deal of arrogance on the pitch and I think it helped him stay fired up on the job. It takes arrogance to score a free kick and stare at the ref to enquire: was that far enough for you?, after the ref had insisted he took the ball a few inches back from the spot he had placed the ball, initially.

    Goal scoring is an art and it’s alright if a striker has swagger, setting high standards for himself so as to keep on top of his game to keep him from media criticism.

  • Nice to see you back Goonereris, It’s been somewhat quiet but at least be are still plodding along.
    It’s still hard to believe that a “science fiction” pandemic is raging around the world, Lets hope the expert scientists discover a vaccine sooner than later, as life will never be the same without one.

    On another note my Arsenal mad family would rave about Cliff Bastin but sadly I never got to see him play. The 1930’s and 40’s Arsenal teams were something to behold and I was fortunate enough to watch many of the great players of the era albeit in the winter of their carriers.

  • Kev, he is.

    It is written in this book: Football Nation: Sixty Years of the Beautiful Game. After Bobby was killed in the war his father asked Ray to take over from Bobby. Sad thing during the war, anyone could come and go, and yes, both were signed by Arsenal.

  • 84, my Dad used to eulogise about Ray Daniel, very very skilful from what I understood a kind of a footballing centre half rather than the usual stopper centre half of the era or like big Les Compton, fondly referred to as old ‘big head’ as my Dad used to say. Les Compton remains, I believe, the oldest player to win a first international cap for England.

    As for Ray Daniel, if I recall, he became the first player to ask for a transfer from Arsenal in many generations, it was a bit of a shock because at the time you never asked to leave Arsenal. But, so the story goes, he was offered an extra financial inducement to join Sunderland, who at the time were throwing money at building a team a bit like a Man City today, but I think they eventually got relegated and Daniel’s career declined rapidly. All very sad really, because he was a crowd favourite at Arsenal.

  • GunnerN5, interested to know what your family thought of Alex James and David Jack, I’ve heard Jack described as the Bergkamp of his day, very elegant but deadly.

  • Thanks, GN5. Even where I can’t contribute, I try to read the posts/comments on the site as often as I can, albeit usually playing catch up. It’s been brilliant with the few who have kept it going.

    It would seem the EPL seek to return June 1, behind closed doors and other safety measures, but to be on TV. I want football back as much as the next man but after that disruption, a cheeky side of me would rather the season was voided; just to have another thing to laugh at Liverpool about. 😉.
    Frankly, I don’t see the fairness in playing opponents in your empty stadium when you had to face the away team on their own ground, filled to capacity with their home fans. There also teams whose rivals (either for Europe or in the relegation battle) faced teams weakened by injuries or a fixture overload (for those in the cups), only for them to have to face the same team, now fully refreshed and at full strength. A few teams would think it unfair if a rival didn’t have to face both Harry Kane and Song (Spuds) when they have to, because both have had time to recover from injuries. There’s also Rashford and a host of others; players you’d be happy to have to avoid. All these may sound inconsequential, on the surface of it, but in a game that affects the bottom line, you can’t say “it all evens out in the end” of this particular league season if the essence of round robin competition is to have participants facing near similar challenges and similar advantage(s) over a period.

  • It’s early in the morning (more like late at night) here, I am sleepy eyed as I typed that so, only hope it made any sense. 💤💤😴

  • Yes Eris, and when our opponents face a beefed up Martinelli, you wouldn’t know what hit them.
    Nowadays there is no even playing field. The top clubs will have all the advantage in the world, and having said that there is a loss for the lower teams that have lesser talent, but they have the grit to make up for it. Not by much I reckon, as they will be fighting it out to escape relegation.

  • I’d imagine that most clubs will pretty much have a full strength squad to pick from after the layoff.
    I think that Arsenal would do ok in an empty stadium, especially away from home, technical ability isn’t our problem, organisation and resilience more so, opponents might not be so aggressive without a few thousand locals screaming them on, so the football should be good, eventually…

    I’ve not read or heard anything regarding the FACup yet, will it be cancelled?

  • I searched to see the status of the 2020 FA Cup but I could not find anything definitive. However the competition is down to the last eight, so that would be a total of 7 games which should be easy to schedule – I would think it will be completed.

  • I’m still bemused as to why they are suggesting that the remaining PL games will/could be played on neutral grounds. I’ve read that it’s down to policing issues which I still don’t understand as their will be no crowds to police?

  • Lol. I hear you, jk, re Martinelli. And fair point, Kev. Clearly, you feel the crowds have an influence on the level of passion and aggression shown by the teams. Let’s hope you’re right. At Sunday-Sunday footie, even without fans present, I see a fair level of aggression; I would think it should be even more so, when there’s something at stake. But, hey. I concede you may be right.

    GN5, the linked article you posted above appears to have answered the question in your penultimate post. Apparently, the demands for policing in all 10 grounds each game day, spread across the country will stretch the Force. There may be concerns some COVID-weary fans may seek to gain access to grounds, seeking a time out.

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