Astall and the Academy

LAST week, Argyle’s second-year apprentices Aaron Goulty and Adam Randall met former Pilgrim and England international Gordon Astall as part of a Premier League initiative.

The campaign, which is all about celebrating the role played by footballers in the Second World War, brought youngsters Aaron and Adam to Astall’s home in Torquay, where they discussed the former right-winger’s career in the game, alongside his history in Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.

“It was an absolute privilege to spend time with Gordon and his family,” said Kevin Hodges, Head of the Argyle Academy, who accompanied the boys on their visit. “We hope, in the not too distant future, to show some hospitality to Gordon here at Home Park.”

Hailing from the Bolton area, and having spent his formative years in the Royal Marines, Astall eventually secured his first professional contract at Argyle after being spotted playing for the Marines in a game at his nearby base in Bickleigh. Having to be supremely fit as a part of his job, Gordon took to professional football like a duck to water, and his powerful physique and raw pace caused havoc for opposition.

Astall, nicknamed both ‘flash’ for his lightning pace, and ‘cannonball’ for the power of his shooting, moved on to Birmingham City, following fellow Pilgrim Alex Govan to the midlands, in 1953, for a fee of £14,000, after scoring 43 goals and earning an England ‘B’ cap while representing Argyle.

Spending eight years at St Andrew’s, Astall earned two full England caps, as well as playing in an FA Cup final, before returning to the South West to end his career with Torquay. For Hodges and his young charges, the opportunity to meet an inspirational character like Gordon was priceless.

“It was interesting for our players to see the differences in the tools of the trade; boots, balls and shin pads have evolved so much since those used by Gordon,” said Hodges.

“The boys asked Gordon about his experiences as a footballer post-war and Gordon proudly showed his England shirts, caps and his football memorabilia,” Hodges continued. “He played as an outside right, and represented the England B team and the full England side, and he also played in a FA Cup final for Birmingham and we were able to see the shirt he wore for this special occasion.”

“We were delighted to be part of the project.”

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