By Jon Couch
AS AN up-and-coming young goalkeeper, Paul Bastock idolised everything Peter Shilton did.
Now, after breaking his record for the most amount of senior club appearances, it’s the England great leading the tributes.
Long-serving Bastock, 47, etched his name into the world record books when he took to the field for Wisbech Town in the FA Vase against Thetford Town last Saturday – his 1,250th club appearance, 29 years after his first.
The feat surpassed Shilton’s tally which has stood since 1997 when the former Leicester City, Nottingham Forest and Southampton goalkeeper made his last ever career appearance for Leyton Orient.
Shilton still holds the world record of overall appearances – 1,387, to include his 125 full England caps and various recognised matches – but in an exclusive interview with The NLP, he was quick to hail the achievements of the lower league stalwart.
“It’s a great milestone and an amazing feat,” said Shilton, who ended his playing career at the age of 49. “To do that takes a variety of things. It takes ability, as well as determination and dedication to your football, in terms of keeping up your fitness and sharpness.
“Also, as I’m sure Paul would agree, you need to have that little bit of luck. Your ability, and good training can help prevent injuries and extend your longevity in the game.
“Goalkeeper training is very specialist and very difficult. You need to be strong, but subtle in moving your body weight around. Diving around in the mud on cold evenings at training takes a lot out of you, so you need to be dedicated and have a genuine love for the game and what you do. Paul clearly has that in abundance.”
The significance of Shilton’s glowing tribute will be heart-warming indeed for Bastock, whose career spanned across no fewer than 18 different clubs, most notably perhaps a 13-year spell at Boston United, which saw him win promotion to the Football League and earn an England C call-up.
“As a young boy, I’d try to emulate everything that Peter Shilton did,” commented the man known as ‘The Cat’ before breaking the record. “Because I’m not the tallest, I even used to hang off the crossbar to stretch out my body like he did.
“When I was young, there were the likes of Ray Clemence, John Burridge and Joe Corrigan, but Shilts was always the one I aspired to be like as a kid whenever I was wearing the yellow England goalkeeper jersey in the park with my mates. I can’t believe that I’ll be passing his record.”
And pass it he did at Thetford’s Mundford Road ground, where he came out to a guard of honour and a raft of media interest before leading his Wisbech side to a 4-1 win.
“The guard of honour was special, especially the way both teams got involved,” he added. “Thetford didn’t have to do that, especially as they were focusing on the game, but it was a nice moment.
“I got a little bit emotional at the end looking around the pitch and seeing people from all over the country. I just thought wow, it’s pretty special that my story has touched this many people to come and stand in the bitter cold.”
“I never thought it would lead to this exposure, I’ve not had a minute to myself since last Wednesday. I’ve had my head in the phone, texting and on Twitter – the problem is everybody wants to speak to you at the same time. It feels like coming from nothing and winning the X Factor!”
So after finally eclipsing his idol’s appearance record, how many more years does Bastock believe he’s got left in him?
“It’s unbelievable how many times I’ve retired – I think I’ve given up every year since my early 30s and have had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra,” he joked. “But this will be my last season now, that’s 100 per cent this time. Shilts played in the Football League when he was 49 and I still get messages from my mates to say I’ve got years left in me, but this will definitely be my last year.”
Peter Shilton’s brand new DVD, Shilton’s Secrets, featuring his lasting legacy and goalkeeping techniques, is due out in March 2018. Follow him on twitter, @Peter_Shilton for news of its release.
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper, which is available every Sunday.