Leslie & Denis Compton

On March 22nd 1950 Arsenal played Chelsea at White Hart Lane, in an FA Cup semi-final replay.  Arsenal won 1-0 with a goal scored in extra time.  It was, according to reports, not a perfect game of skilful football - indeed it seems that Arsenal were indulging in a long ball game for much of the time.  The game took place during the illustrious reign of Tom Whittaker who won the league twice and the FA Cup once for the club.  It was his untimely death in October 1956 that resulted in the club appointing a sequence of three managers who, over the next ten years, won nothing, and managed just one single top four finish between them.

But back to this game.  Arsenal’s team was of particular note:


Scott    Barnes

Macauley, Leslie Compton, Mercer

Cox, Logie, Goring, Lewis, Denis Compton

And of course from this you will see Arsenal had two Comptons playing.

Leslie Compton played for Arsenal between 1930 and 1952 mainly as a centre-half, making 253 appearances and scoring 5 goals.  He won a First Division title medal in 1948 and a FA Cup winners medal (following this game) in 1950.

Denis Compton played for Arsenal between 1936 and 1950, mainly as an outside left, making 54 appearances and scoring 15 goals.  He also won a first Division title medal in 1948 and the FA Cup winners medal in 1950.

Denis Compton CBE was born in Hendon on 23 May 1918 and died in Hendon on 23 April 1997.  If we are to separate the Comptons somehow we’d call Denis a cricketer who played football, in contrast to his brother who was a footballer who played cricket.  Denis played in 78 Test Matches and played for Middlesex - his home county.  He was a slow left arm bowler, and cricket reports call him one of England’s most remarkable batsmen. He scored 123 centuries in first-class cricket.   A stand at Lord’s is name in his honour.

Denis started his football career at Nunhead in 1934-35 before moving to Arsenal, where he made his début in 1936.  He also played for England in wartime matches.

Leslie Compton.  Like his brother he played cricket for Middlesex, but it was at football that he excelled.   He came to Arsenal straight from Middlesex Schools, and played as an amateur in 1930 playing his first first-team game on 24 April 1932 against Aston Villa, just after turning pro.

He started as a right back, but then when George Male took that place Denis went back into the reserves.  His first medal came with the Charity Shield in 1938.  During the war he continued to play for Arsenal and, being converted to centre forward he apparently scored ten goals in one game against Leyton Orient.

After the war however he moved into the centre of defence.  He missed a few games in 1947-48 because of his commitments to Middlesex (which must have meant that Arsenal and Middlesex had a deal as to when he was available) he played for the rest of the season as Arsenal won the First Division title and both Comptons got their league winner’s medals. It was Leslie who scored the equaliser in the first match against Chelsea, that led to the replay discussed above, heading in a corner taken by his brother Denis. In the final Arsenal beat Liverpool 1-0 to win the cup.

Denis was then selected to play for England on 15 November 1950, at the age of 38 years and 64 days; the oldest post-war England debutante and the oldest ever outfield player to début. Leslie retired in the summer of 1952 but stayed on for three more years as a coach and scout.  His cricketing record was 272 appearances for Middlesex where he played as wicket keeper, and both brothers won the 1947 County Championship.

The Compton brothers are thus the only siblings ever to have won the League and County titles in football and cricket

The whole of the Arsenal squad signed their autographs on the illustration below with Denis Compton, top left, and Leslie Compton, bottom right, and the future manager William John “Jack” Crayston, top right, the lad from Grange-over-Sands who played in the North Lancs League for Ulverston.

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Design: David Ainsworth