Some stark realism from a record-breaking gent of the game
PUBLISHED: 13:09 17 November 2017 | UPDATED: 19:07 18 November 2017
History-making goalkeeper Paul Bastock is a bit of a headline writer's dream.
The 47-year-old – who sounds remarkably like Burnley boss Sean Dyche after 90 minutes’ shouting – will surely go down as one of the nicest blokes you could meet in football. Self-deprecating, more than generous in his gratitude, and with a lovely sense of humour. Got to say that at Thetford last week it was a pleasure to speak to him. Not just because of his admirable personality, but because I was there. The day Bastock played his 1,250th game of club football. Yes, there may be someone in the Peruvian Third Division who would lay claim to the record, but Bastock’s figure is one more than the great Peter Shilton and that’s good enough for me.
To be honest, the record isn’t what it was all about: it was about celebrating a man who has dedicated his life to playing football, and playing it the right way.
Even after 30 years in the game, the ability is still there – he was beaten only by a late penalty as his Wisbech side beat their Thetford hosts 4-1 and not for one moment did Bastock look out of place once the game started.
But a couple of hours later, after post-match TV interviews and a never-ending row of back-slapping and handshaking had been completed, Bastock’s words carried a healthy dose of reality and honesty that many others would do well to remember.
“I can still do it and I could probably do it next year and I probably could go on until 50, but I need to be mentally challenged at 47 to come out on a cold November night, train and whatever else, and those days are going by now,” he said.
“I am quite happy to sit at home and put my feet up. Play a bit of golf. I am mentally challenged to finish this season because we are doing well in Vase and the league, but if anybody thinks they can talk me around next season it will be wasted gas.
“I have been saying it for 10 years – what else can I achieve? If we got to Wembley what else could I achieve? I have got the world record, I will have got to Wembley ... that’s it.
“To go through next season hoping you get to Wembley, hoping you win the league? It is a long old season is a football season and when you get to my age and you wake up in the morning and you’re having to take pain tablets just to get out and walk, it takes a lot of physical energy to go training and travelling and everything else.”
What happens so often in football is that people want to see a fairytale, and, very often, it gets delivered, through fair means or foul. But Bastock has been traipsing around for enough years to know that it doesn’t always work like that – the glamour isn’t sticking on a pair of earphones and talking to Gary in the Match of the Day studio before heading off to the best restaurant for dinner.
Bastock’s glamorous footballing world took him to a ground with fewer than 300 people inside (although it looked and sounded like a lot more). The atmosphere was excellent, Wisbech fans travelled in numbers, Thetford were excellent hosts and the football on a chilly day in Breckland was pretty damned good.
The cameras probably won’t be there again unless Bastock and Wisbech get to Wembley. That’s the reality. But do we care?
We all loved last Saturday and we will continue to love the non league football world, because it’s reality, not life seen through a 44-inch Panasonic. Proper tea in proper mugs served by a bloke who reffed a match that morning and was due to do another couple the following day; 90 minutes of blood and guts football during which tales of derring-do were exchanged in the stands. Post match when Bastock disappeared you could pop your head in the away team dressing room to see if he was in there and then, on the way out, you could see, what, 50 Wisbech fans singing the name of their manager as he joined them in Thetford’s new clubhouse room for a beer.
Handshakes all round, then off to another non league adventure. Where it takes Paul Bastock, who knows? I do hope it’s Wembley, though, because he and players and fans like him deserve that.
Brit’s all ok, Ray
Good news for Ray Wilkins – it seems the standard of British managers remains strong, despite the influx of foreigners.
In response to a study (which showed at the start of each season from 1997-98 to 2017-18 there was a 55pc drop in UK and Irish bosses), League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan says we can sleep safe in our beds.
“The Premier League is the very top global employment market for football managers and coaches,” said Bevan.
I deplore much of what the Premier League stands for, but it is populated by owners who want the best in the world – and that is not confined to British people.
Wilkins moaned at Norwich City for hiring Daniel Farke, a German, ahead of a Brit.
“It tells us we are not getting a lot of respect from the clubs, to be perfectly honest. When you think of Ryan Giggs sitting out there, Tim Sherwood. All sitting out there, waiting for jobs.”
There’s a reason for that, Ray...
Twice in the space of a few days, England’s national football team enthralled me.
True, Tuesday’s performance against Brazil wasn’t as exciting as the one against Germany, but, hey, this was a team of youngsters against the best in the world, what do you expect?
Too many critics expected too much: they shout for England to blood youth, but when they do (even though manager Gareth Southgate didn’t have much choice) they’re still not happy.
The only thing that disappointed me was the commentary. No surprise there, and I admit, I really should get over it, but Glenn Hoddle, what were you doing?
This man will not have a bad word said against England, to the extent that his ‘expert analysis’ is ridiculous.
How about Jamie Vardy leaving his boot in late on a Brazilian?
Why not pick the bones out of that tackle? It’s because he is so not suited for the job... and now he’s got me wound up when I really ought to let it go...