Denis Compton

In his heyday, Denis Compton was a hero to millions, however his exploits as a cricketer will always be remembered more than what he did as a footballer.

But then you could argue that he would have done much more in the latter sport if he had not been quite so proficient with a bat in his hand.

He joined Arsenal as a 14-year-old amateur in 1932 and became a regular on the wing in the junior sides.

Compton scored on his League debut against Derby in September 1936. But despite that, he was still in and out of the first team. However, he did star for the Reserves and in the 1936/37 season hit five goals in a game on two occasions.

He was a slightly unorthodox left winger with power, pace and a redoubtable ability in the air.  But, unfortunately, the Second World War arrived just when he was hitting his peak. Despite being stationed in India, Compton played 120 war-time games for the club, scoring 74 goals. He also appeared in 12 England internationals. Unfortunately these games don’t count in the official records.

On the resumption of the Football League proper in 1946/47 he was sidelined with a leg injury and featured in only one game that season.

He played 14 games in the following campaign to help Arsenal win the title. But once again, after that, appearances were irregular until he left the club in 1950. However at least he saw success in one of his final games, helping the club lift the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Liverpool.

Injury and opportunity had hampered Denis Compton the footballer. His brother Leslie played for Arsenal virtually at the same time but, tellingly, figured in five times the number of matches.

As a cricketer, Denis Compton had few rivals. A dashing, stylish batsman, he amassed 39,000 career runs at an average of 52. His buccaneering attitude won him a legion of admirers as well as a lucrative contract with “Brylcream”. In 1947 he hit 3,816 runs for Middlesex and England at an average of 91, including 18 centuries.

He even missed the start of the football season that year to make sure his county won their championship.

He was awarded a CBE in 1958 and, after retirement, became a football and cricket reporter for the Sunday Express.

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