Arsenal’s Century Club – Cliff Bastin

Nineteen players have achieved the feat of scoring 100 goals for the Club over the past 96 years. The players are sorted by the number of games taken to reach the 100 goal mark. Cliff Bastin sits at number 10

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.

Alex James and Cliff Bastin – a deadly duo

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 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 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 3-6 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.

Cliff in 1946 – how many goals would he have scored for The Arsenal if the War hadn’t intervened?

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.

click to see image expanded

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.


Bonus picture

A still from The Arsenal Stadium Mystery – Highbury’s West Stand with terracing below and the North Bank in the background


28 Responses to Arsenal’s Century Club – Cliff Bastin

  1. chas says:

    Excellent stuff, GN5.

    It seems as though Cliff Bastin was a true great, transcending time like Alex James.

  2. LBG says:

    An interesting read as always GN5.
    Particularly also for a Vines, that the boy Clifford Bastin was born in Heavitree and returned there to retire, as we have a first cousin, Stephen Hows who has been a long time resident of that village, and I never knew the link.
    Only problem…..a born and raised Totteringham supporter. Cant all be perfect!

  3. GoonerB says:

    Brilliant GN5. Where do you get all this stuff from. If you gave me 3 weeks off I don’t think I could find all the little gems of information, photos and videos you put in.

    Bastin only at number 10 and TH14 at 11. Who would have thought that. At this rate Wrighty won’t even make the top 10.

  4. Sue says:

    So much info, GN5! Also, some great pictures!!
    Being a huge Ian Wright fan, I loved seeing him in that ‘179 Just done it’ vest!!

    Nice to read about a legend from before… I’m not so familiar with Alex James though (unless you’re talking about Blur!)

  5. RA says:

    Another fascinating delve into Arsenal history, GN5, and thank you for that.

  6. RA says:

    GB and Sue B Doo,

    GN5 writes these excellent pieces, but I think Chas gets the credit for the pics and videos on the Posts.

  7. Sue says:

    Well in that case, RA… many thanks to chas too! 😃

  8. VP says:

    bloody brilliant gn5
    another pearler
    tinged with the sadness that he could’ve been the all time greatest Arsenal goal scorer if not for the war

  9. allezkev says:

    Brilliant piece GN5, great work, Cliff Bastin scored 33 league goals in one season, imagine a wing forward doing that nowadays.
    That image of Bastin and Alex James would make a fantastic statue to add to the three that we have outside the Emirates.
    His book ‘Cliff Bastin Remembers’ is a great read for any Arsenal fan interested in the club during its 1930’s domination of English football.

  10. GunnerN5 says:

    Morning all,

    I so wish that I could have seen Bastin play but I was a season to late.

    That’s an extraordinary video Chas. We used to watch the Pathe news/sports clips every Saturday morning at the pictures (cinema) we had no TV at home so it made it all the more special.

  11. GunnerN5 says:

    In the age we live in, embedded in technology, it’s incredible to think that all we had when I was a kid was a crackly wireless, newspapers and Saturday morning Pathe news reels.

  12. Sue says:

    I forgot Chelsea played that game in America last night (No RA, not in Wichita!)
    So Loftus-Cheek left the stadium on crutches!

    The transfer window is open for business! Boom!! Very happy about that.. Zaha wants to leave Palace, I know he’d be pricey, but I do like him!

  13. jjgsol says:

    Thanks for a very enjoyable read.

    I look forward to seeing the next 9, although I suspect that apart from Ian Wright, I will not have seen any of the others.

  14. RA says:

    That was very astute of you, Sue, the transfer window does indeed open today, and closes on the 16th August @ 5 p.m.

    That is very different from the usual dates — and I cannot remember why it changed – although it was probably because the transfer window (summer) used to close after the season had started.

    No doubt some club(s) complained it was not fair???

  15. RA says:


    Why is this smug bloody advert, of the kid making £50k, constantly repeating on the blog.

    Have you got shares?

  16. Big Raddy says:

    Another cracker GN5.

    I think this sries is the best we have ever had on AA, and would grace any website or newspaper. The research and the writing is simply excellent.

    Bastin was a man I heard a great deal about. My Subbuteo team often had either Bastin or George Armstrong on the wing (James always in midfield alongside Sammels)

  17. Big Raddy says:

    RA. I never see it but I use Firefox

  18. Sue says:

    RA… I believe the window closes on 8th August 😜 (just before the league starts) but you got the time right 👏😄 .. I don’t know why the dates changed, although at least the new players should hopefully be ready for the first game… that is, of course if we buy anyone 🤪

  19. chas says:

    I get adverts for dildos and butt plugs. I suppose the advertising is targeted depending on what you Google. You must have been googling how to get rich quick.

    Nah, that can’t be true as you’re already rich being an accountant. 🙂

  20. chas says:

    To tell the truth, I don’t get adverts as I’m using an ad blocker on Chrome.

  21. fred1266 says:

    How come he didn’t get more caps for England

    Also after the war did he play for Arsenal

  22. GunnerN5 says:

    Raddy @ 5:59, thank you.

    I really enjoy the research as I grew up hearing about many of these players and I was also fortunate enough to be able to see some of them in action.

    I’m kicking around the idea of writing a series on Arsenal by decade, which would be 13 articles. It’s difficult to get in depth information on the early years; however I have a complete statistical record from almost day one, including who scored every league goal.

  23. RA says:

    Sue, @ 6:20

    You are spot on – 8th August, it is.

    I really did not know until you mentioned it — but if the kind of payers we are likely to get is a slow, 28 y.o. Argentinian CB, valued at £10m, so it is said, he should fit right in with the other slow, old, defenders we already have.

    I know sod all about him to be candid, but it is alleged he is a couple of levels below Mustafi — so — we should keep Mustafi and also keep our £10m transfer fee.

    Right so that is summer over and done with! 😂

  24. chas says:

  25. Sue says:

    RA… I was feeling really optimistic about this transfer window, until I read your comment – slow CB valued at 10m, worse than Mustafi (is that even possible??!!) oh dear.. not sure my heart can take another season of kamikaze defending 😂😂 on a plus though – you said he’s an Argentine – he may look like Sergio!!

  26. VP says:

    I read that Atletico Madrid want Lacazette and Real Madrid want PEA
    As much as we talk about who we want to buy its a concern we might lose some of our best players

  27. fatgingergooner says:

    Transfer news can wait until after the EL Final. Loftus-Cheek is out which is great news for us. Chelsea are predictable in midfield but RLC gave them a runner and a bit of an attacking threat. Without him I feel we can concentrate purely on their attacking players. Hopefully they start with something like Kovecic/Jorginho/Barkley

  28. chas says:


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