Classic Match | Cliff Bastin's Debut - Newport County 1928

In the lead up to the match against Newport County in April 1928, much of the talk from the City faithful was about a young local lad called Cliff Bastin, who, having made a name for himself in the City Reserves team, had been given his senior debut in the goalless draw away at Coventry the previous week.

At this point he was just three week past his 16th birthday, and while the City management were concerned about throwing him into professional football at such a young age, his performance levels for the Reserves meant that the former Ladysmith Schoolboy had earned his chance.

Although he’d not made an impression on the score-line at Highfield Road, many fans coming to watch his home debut were aware of what he could do. Just a fortnight before he had put in an impressive man of the match display for the Reserves against Taunton, where he set up the first with a superb inside pass, before scoring the second by finishing off a mesmerising run down the left flank with a tidy finish.

In the early minutes of the match against Newport, Bastin’s natural ability was evident as he controlled and passed the ball as well as any player on the pitch. His attacking intent was also displayed early on as he hit two fierce shots that had to be diverted for corners by the Newport keeper.

Buoyed by the energy of the young Grecian, City kept on the attack, and despite conceding the opening goal of the game, they were soon level thanks to a timely strike from the experienced centre forward, Fred Dent.

Then, just as the game was approaching half-time, Jazzo Kirk slipped the ball through to Bastin, who made it a dream debut in front of his own fans by hammering a powerful left-foot shot just inside the far upright to make it 2-1.

The second half was all City, as the Grecians put on a rampaging display of attacking football. George Purcell scored Exeter’s third and fourth, and then Bastin completed the rout to make it 5-1 with a thundering drive that nearly wrenched the net from its sockets.

Such was his talent that Bastin would only make another 15 appearances for City, before being snapped up by the legendary Arsenal manager, Herbert Chapman.

In the years that followed, Bastin would go on to win medals at the highest level of the game, and set scoring records for the Gunners that would only be beaten decades later by Arsenal legends, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry, while at City his record as the youngest player for the club lasted for 88 years until Ethan Ampadu made his debut against Brentford in 2016 aged just 15 years, 10 months and 26 days.


Final Score: ECFC 5 Newport County 1

Exeter City: Holland, Pollard, Charlton, Pheonix, Mason, Clarke, Purcell, McDevitt, Dent, Bastin, Kirk.

Newport County: Maidment, Anderson, Hinton, Richardson, Bowsher, Pugh, Pick, Gittens, Waterson, Thomas, Young.

Man of the match: Cliff Bastin

Attendance: 6,000


Written by: Will Barrett

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