Two one-club brothers: Arsenal's Leslie and Denis Compton
A rare photo of the Compton brothers together.

Two one-club brothers: Arsenal's Leslie and Denis Compton

A look back at the footballing careers of Arsenal's multi-talented Compton brothers.

mattddawson
Matt Dawson

Not many people have had the opportunity to grace the pitches of both cricket and football at a professional level, but brothers Leslie and Denis Compton achieved just that. Their contributions to sport were outstanding and therefore it is important to note their successes and make sure the Compton brothers are not forgotten. 

Both individuals played football for Arsenal whilst also playing cricket for Middlesex CCC. They meanwhile represented their country in different sports and their story makes for a very intriguing read. Just how did they rise to prominence at Arsenal though?

Denis Compton: 

Denis' footballing career wasn't as successful as his brother Leslie's, but he still showed remarkable talent in what was a career that spanned 14 years. He concentrated mainly on his cricket, playing 78 test matches for England which saw him score 17 hundreds, whilst he also made over 100 hundred first class centuries in county cricket. However, when it came to football he made 60 official starts for Arsenal, the team he started out at as an amateur in 1932, aged just 14.

He quickly became a star for the youth sides on the wing before being granted a first senior start in 1936. It was a debut that saw him score his first goal for the club but just as he was starting to show promise in football, World War Two broke out. During that time he played in 120 games for the club, scoring 74 goals predominantly from his unorthodox wing position he played in. He also played 12 times for his country during this time but these stats unfortunately cease to exist in the official records. 

Despite not featuring in many matches despite the length of his career, he did indeed win the old First Division in the 1937-38 season before also winning the league in 1948. Denis was also to become an FA Cup winner, winning the trophy in 1950 under a team managed by Tom Whittaker. His injuries were to get the better of him though and consequently he didn't play as many games for Arsenal as he would've liked. His concentration was more on his cricket career which was always the more successful of sports for him. Coincidentally, his brother Leslie was the better footballer than cricketer. 

Leslie Compton: 

Leslie Compton is one of Arsenal's longest serving players in the club's illustrious history. He was with the Gunners for 22 years in a career that saw him play 273 times during a period that was halted massively as a result of the second World War. Unlike his brother Denis, Leslie's focus was much more on football, and he still currently holds the record for the oldest outfield player to have made his England debut. At the time he was 38, making his first of two caps in 1950 which was very much the autumn of his career. 

Leslie joined Arsenal as an amateur in 1930 before making his senior debut two years later against Aston Villa. He was a bit part player to begin with but after the War he was very much a first team regular. He was to become a stalwart in central defence, having previously played at right-back, and also a short period of time as a striker during the war years.

He helped Arsenal to a league title in 1947-48 and an FA Cup in 1950 alongside his brother. Fittingly, it was Denis Compton who supplied a corner for a vital last minute headed equaliser from Leslie in the semi-final of that triumphant FA Cup run. During the close season of the league winning year, Leslie was given the captain's armband but relieved himself of the duty after only a short period of time, claiming that Joe Mercer deserved the armband more. He didn't represent his country at cricket like his brother, but he did become one of the much loved footballers of his generation. After his retirement in 1952 he went on to become a coach and scout for Arsenal.

The Compton brothers successes are still recognised today, and they are amongst a select group of people to have played both cricket and football to a highly professional standard; the fact that both have represented England backs up their near impeccable talent. Denis Compton meanwhile is remembered at Lords Cricket ground where a stand is named after him. Their grandson Nick Compton is currently a professional cricketer and has also played for Middlesex, like his grandfathers, and has also represented England on nine occasions. 

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