Continuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we begin our quest for the greatest forwards to include in our team. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite striker from an earlier era by voting in the poll on Saturday.
7. Cliff Bastin: 1929-1946.
Cliff appeared in 396 games over a 17 year period and scored 178 goals.
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 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 formed an integral 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. 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.
His career was cut short at its peak when WW11 started; he was excused military service as 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. After the war was over, Cliff, by now in his thirties, would only play seven more times before retiring in January 1947.
After retirement, he returned to his native Exeter and ran a pub. 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
8. Reg Lewis: 1935-1953
Reg appeared in 176 games over an 18 year period and scored 118 goals.
Born in Bilston, Staffordshire, Reg spent his entire career at Arsenal. He joined the club as a schoolboy in 1935, and scored on his debut against Everton on January 1, 1938. He made only four appearances in 1937-38, however, and as a result missed out on a League Championship winners’ medal. He broke into the first-team more in 1938-39, making 16 appearances in league and cup, scoring 7 goals, but the advent of the WW11 interrupted his career.
During the war he continued to play for Arsenal and shone as a natural goal scorer; although wartime appearances and goals are not officially counted, he scored 143 goals in 130 games, including four in the 1943 War Cup Southern Final, in a 7-1 demolition of Charlton Athletic. Towards the end of the war he served in the British Army of the Rhine in Occupied Germany, but returned to play for Arsenal once first-class football resumed in 1946. Although most of the Arsenal side of the 1930s were past their best by this time, Reg was still only 26 and he continued to be a regular in the first team throughout the remainder of the 1940s. He was the club’s top scorer in 1946-47 with 29 goals, and the following season (1947-48), he partnered new signing Ronnie Rooke and between them they scored 47 goals as Arsenal won the First Division title.
He continued to be a regular for the rest of the decade and he enjoyed arguably his best season in 1949-50; he scored 19 goals in 31 league games, played twice for the England B team. However, during the early 1950s, Reg became constantly afflicted with injuries, and he made only 12 appearances in 1951-52 and none at all in 1952-53.
His tally of 118 in 176 first-team games puts him 13th in the all-time list but his total figure from 1935 to 1953 was a staggering 392 in 451 matches. His finest hour came in the 1950 FA Cup final, when he scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Liverpool.
In the close season of 1953, he retired from the game at the age of 33. After retiring, Reg first ran a pub, and then worked in insurance.
Reg passed away in 1997 aged 77 years.
9. Jimmy Logie: 1939-1955
Jimmy appeared in 328 games over a 16 year period and scored 76 goals.
Born in Edinburgh and raised in the city’s Grassmarket, Jimmy first played for Scottish junior side Lochore Welfare, before being signed by Arsenal in June 1939. Soon afterwards World War II broke out, and he was called up; he served in the Royal Navy for the entire duration of the conflict.
After being demobbed he rejoined Arsenal, playing several wartime matches, before making his full first-team debut against Wolves on 31 August 1946. Jimmy was a talented and creative player (many observers likened him to his fellow countryman Alex James, who had played for Arsenal in the 1930s), and for the next eight seasons he was a regular in the Arsenal side, playing at inside forward.
He took part in all of Arsenal’s early post-war successes; winning two First Division titles in 1947-48 and 1952-53. He also lifted the 1950 FA Cup (setting up both goals in the 2-0 win over Liverpool) and played in the 1952 final when the Gunners were beaten 1-0 by Newcastle after playing 55 minutes with just 10 men. In the latter stages of his career he also served as Arsenal vice-captain, behind Joe Mercer.
In all he played 328 matches for Arsenal, scoring 76 goals and after a distinguished career with Arsenal, he was transferred to Gravesend and Northfleet for £2,000 in February 1955.
Despite his success at Arsenal, Jimmy only ever won a single a cap for Scotland, playing against Northern Ireland on 5 November 1952.
After retirement Jimmy fell on hard times; football was not the lucrative profession it is currently, and he was a keen gambler. He eventually ended up working for a newsagent in Piccadilly Circus.
Jimmy Logie dedicated almost 16 years of his life to Arsenal.
He died in 1984, aged 64.
10. Doug Lishman: 1948-1956.
Doug appeared in 244 games over an 8 year period and scored 137 goals.
Born in Birmingham, Doug first played as a centre forward for non-league Paget Rangers, before signing as a professional for Third Division South Walsall in August 1946. In two seasons with the Saddlers, Lishman scored 26 goals in 59 league appearances.
He was signed by Arsenal in the summer of 1948 for £10,500, as backup for Reg Lewis, who was only 28 but was injured frequently, Doug made his debut against Sheffield United on September 4, 1948, but after a promising first season (scoring 13 goals in 25 appearances), and his 1949-50 and 1950-51 seasons were marred by injuries. He was passed over for the 1950 FA Cup final (which Arsenal won 2-0), in favour of Lewis and Peter Goring, and then just as he came back into the Arsenal first team, he broke his leg playing against Stoke City in December 1950.
However, he recovered to become Arsenal’s top scorer in 1950-51, and the next season hit 30 goals, including three hat-tricks in three successive home matches; Arsenal finished third that season. The following season (1951-52) they reached the FA Cup final, only to lose to Newcastle United; a series of injuries meant only eight fit players finished the match (no substitutes were allowed in those days). Doug came close for Arsenal with a header, which clipped the crossbar, but Arsenal lost 1-0.
His disappointment was soon forgotten, as Arsenal won the League Championship in 1952-53. He was again Arsenal’s top scorer, this time with 26, and with every goal proving vital, Arsenal won the title on goal average above Preston North End. His form was good enough for him to be picked for an England B match against Scotland B in March 1953, although he was never capped for the full national side.
Doug was top scorer for another two seasons after that, making it five successive seasons as the club’s top scorer in total. He scored 137 goals in 244 appearances, making him the club’s tenth-highest goal scorer of all time. However with younger men like Derek Tapscott and David Herd taking over goal scoring duties for Arsenal, Doug was dropped from the first team in 1955-56.
In March 1956 he was sold to Second Division Nottingham Forest. He scored a hat-trick in the match that got Forest promoted (a 4-0 win over Sheffield United) to Division One in 1956-57, but decided to retire in the summer of 1957. He left the game entirely after retiring. He joined his father-in law in business (furniture retail) in Stoke on Trent, later taking over the business himself.
He continued to live in Stoke on Trent until his death in 1994.
Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile