WTTGT Writer: Matt Mace
Cristiano Ronaldo, Alexis Sanchez, Frank Ribery and Lionel Messi – all wingers by trade, all goalscorers by nature.
It seems the role of the wide-man has shifted from the provider of goals to the scorer of them, but before you Tweet these superstars, congratulating them on changing the way football is played may I first point you in the direction of Cliff Bastin, the Arsenal legend who revolutionised the role of the ‘wide-man.’
From 1929 to 1946, Bastin was the tormentor of full-backs, yet it was his uncanny ability to find the back of the net that has seen him immortalised by the Arsenal faithful. Mustering 396 appearances and a staggering 178 goals from his wide left position, Bastin is currently third in the Gunners’ all-time leading goal scorers list behind Ian Wright (185 goals from 288 appearances) and Thierry Henry (226 goals from 380 appearances).
Bastin was one of many to flourish under Herbert Chapman’s revolutionary W-M formation which conquered England for five years. This formation saw Arsenal pick up 4 league titles in 5 seasons (as well as an additional one in 1938), 2 FA Cups and 4 Charity Shields (now known as the Community Shield), largely due to Bastin’s goals.
Despite Chapman’s tactics largely influencing Bastin’s scoring chances, the winger also had Scottish international Alex James to thank due to his endless supply of through balls to the likes of Bastin and Ted Drake.
Signed as a 17 year old after only making 17 appearances for Exeter City, Bastin was already making waves in the Arsenal first-team making over 20 appearances for the Gunners in his first season. International recognition soon followed but Bastin’s international form, under a different formation, was nowhere close to his outstanding performances for The Arsenal.
Bastin could have easily gone on to even greater heights, but whilst reaching his peak at the age of 27, the war intervened. However, Bastin was excused from military service due to his growing deafness, yet strangely Italy were unaware of this and falsely claimed that Bastin was being detained in the country after being captured in the battle of Crete.
After dying in 1991 at the Age of 79, Exeter City F.C named one of the stands at their home ground, St. James’ Park, after him. And whilst his time on earth may have come to an end, his memory will forever be remembered by Arsenal fans young and old.