As FA Cup educations go you would be hard-pressed to find one more impressive than that of Stamford’s veteran goalkeeper Paul Bastock.
In his thirty year career the forty six year old has represented fifteen different clubs, including a spell in Malaysia with Sabah FA.
But it was back in 1986 when his career began in Coventry City’s youth system where his FA Cup love affair really began.
As a seventeen year old apprentice he watched the Sky Blues shock the nation by producing one of the biggest FA Cup Final upsets of all time, beating a Tottenham Hotspur side containing the likes of Chris Waddle, Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardilies.
That 1987 Final has gone down in history but it wasn’t the only cup success for the Midlands club that season.
Bastock was part of the City youth team that matched the achievements of their senior counterparts, winning the FA Youth Cup for the first and only time in the club’s history.
A 2-1 aggregate win over Charlton Athletic was enough to make Bastock and his team mates FA Youth Cup winners, in a season that will go down as one of the greatest in Sky Blues history.
A historic moment, not only for the club, but also for Bastock, as he began a career that has seen him become one of the most recognisable characters in the non-league game.
Even now, in the twilight of a very special career, Bastock still recalls what he called “a special time”
“We won the Youth Cup in the very same week the Senior team won the FA Cup.
“It was unbelievable, Coventry was just a small club, a family club. So to get that sort of success at two levels was incredible.
“The pros had been winding us up, saying we would get knocked out before they did. We kept replying saying ‘We are through, now it’s up to you to get through’.
“The city, the club, everything was buzzing, it was such a special time.
“We went to Wembley, on the club coach with the players wives, which was rather nice because there were some very decent women on that coach.
“But joking aside it was amazing.
“Keith Houchen scored that header that everybody remembers, I will never forget that feeling of being part of something so special.
“It was unreal and for five or six months after the two finals that atmosphere kept on going.
“It was a really special introduction into football and into what the FA Cup means, no matter what level it is at”
Bastock never made a first team appearance at Coventry City, with his senior debut coming in 1988 after a move to Cambridge United.
He played twelve times for the U’s, before a surprise move to Malaysian club Sabah.
That move gave him an “incredible experience” as he called for more English players to take their career abroad.
“I had played first team games for Cambridge United after I left Coventry and when they released me an old manager at Coventry got in touch to take me out to Malaysia.
“It was an incredible experience. There was a lot of support for the club and I think it was David Rocastle, the ex-Arsenal player that went out there later on.
“We got Sabah promoted, and we were the first ever English imports to play out there. David went out later on I think.
“I think more English players should try it and take a chance abroad because that experience will live with me”
After his spell in Malaysia ended, Bastock returned to England to spend a season with Fisher Athletic.
But it was his next move that gave him the most memorable FA Cup moment of his career so far.
Kettering Town were flying high at the top end of the Conference during the 1991/92 season, challenging for a place in the Football League with the likes of Colchester United and Martin O’Neill’s Wycombe Wanderers.
Eventually those two sides opened up a big gap at the top of the table, with Colchester sealing promotion back into the Football League on goal difference, with the Poppies finishing twenty one points behind them in third position.
However, it was the FA Cup that stole the show for Kettering Town that season, as they saw off the likes of Heybridge Swifts and Stafford Rangers in the Qualifying Rounds.
Two wins in the “proper” rounds over Wycombe Wanderers and Maidstone United set up a Third Round tie at a Blackburn Rovers side managed by Kenny Dalglish, an FA Cup winner on two occasions as player-manager and then manager of Liverpool.
Dalglish’s Rovers revolution was still in its infancy, with the Ewood Park club sealing promotion to the Premier League in that very season.
The gulf in class proved to be a step too far for Kettering, although the fixture proved to be a memorable one for Bastock, and not for all of the right reasons.
“The best run for me was with Kettering Town in 1991/92” he revealed.
“We had a great side and we got to the Third Round of the competition and were drawn away at Blackburn Rovers in the season when Kenny Dalglish has just taken over.
“They won promotion to the Premier League that season and had the likes of Gordon Cowans and David Speedie. They thumped us 4-1, but to get to that stage as a non-league club was special.
“There were 12,000 there and we actually thought we could cause an upset but the gulf in class was huge.
“Cowans was different class, Speedie’s movement was unbelievable.
“My family were there and the main thing I remember was when the third goal went in I volleyed the post.
“I did it so hard I broke a toe so it wasn’t all great memories but they do stick with you”
Since that spell with the Poppies, Bastock has played for the likes of Boston United, St Albans City and Worksop Town.
His latest club, Stamford AFC, have set Bastock on the FA Cup trail once again.
The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South club produced one of the biggest shocks in the Fourth Qualifying Round by knocking Wrexham out of the competition.
An epic tie took place with the Daniels taking the game to a replay after a 1-1 draw at their Zeeco Stadium.
Despite facing overwhelming odds, Stamford sealed a place in the First Round and a tie at SkyBet League Two club Hartlepool United, a club Bastock could and in his words “should” have signed for after his return from Malaysia in 1989.
The win over Wrexham was extra sweet for the Lincolnshire club, as it sent them into the First Round for the first time in their 120 year history.
With the scores tied at 2-2 in extra time, Jake Duffy stepped up to curl home a free kick and create Daniels history.
Bastock was left watching from the sidelines with a shoulder injury, but paid tribute to his Daniels team mates for triumphing against the odds.
“When it went to 2-2 and extra time kicks in you were worrying that it might be a step too far for the lads, especially with the extra fitness levels that Wrexham should have had.
“The lads turned up late because the coach was held up in traffic so they were on a loser to start with.
“But it shows the desire, the commitment from the boys to get a result. It was a massive shock but it shows that if you are organised you can do anything. We were solid, we were defensively solid, and it will be the same for Sunday no doubt”
The run has produced a much-needed bright spot for the Stamford supporters.
They were relegated from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League’s top flight last season, only to be reprieved by a league restructure.
However, just a week later, they were relegated once again, leaving supporters wondering what was going on.
Bastock has sympathy for the Daniels faithful and hopes that the FA Cup run in a reward for their loyalty in tough times.
And although he won’t feature in Sunday’s game in the North East, he insisted that he will still be cheering on his team mates as they look to pull off an FA Cup shock.
“We got relegated, then reprieved, then relegated again, so the fans have been through it.
“The cup run has reignited and rewarded them. I keep seeing on Twitter, the things they are saying, and the messages we are getting. The place is buzzing.
“It would have been a pinnacle to play but I have a lot of people in my family that are going through things and that puts it into perspective.
“The lads are buzzing and this morning they have been given their match shirts with their names on the back.
“Being non-league they haven’t had that before so it is the little things that make the competition so special.
“Non-League players get to live the dream and we will do that again on Sunday”
“It is disappointing but I’ll still be cheering the lads on and I am sure they will do us proud”
Should Bastock choose to end his long career, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Bastock name in the FA Cup.
His son Callum, also a goalkeeper, is currently recovering from a double anterior cruciate ligament injury.
His club, Grimsby Town, are standing by him and his recovery is heading towards its final stages.
Now Bastock Senior is hopeful that his son can put his injury nightmare behind him and go on to have a long career, just as he did.
“Callum is still recovering from operations after he injured both of his ACLs.
“He should be making a return to training in the next couple of months and he has been strong through the recovery.
“Hopefully once he gets back he can go on to have a long career and one that is relatively injury-free like mine was”
If he does that, then he will have no better person to learn from than his Dad, just as the FA Cup provided an education that Paul Bastock will never forget.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)