History: Dennis and Leslie Compton – The brothers that had amazing careers at Arsenal and cricket

The Compton Brothers

Dennis and Leslie Compton are one of only three sets of brothers who have played for Arsenal.

Both brothers appeared for The Gunners from the start of the 1930s all the way through to the early 1950s where during that time the North Londoners picked up their first seven First Division league titles and three FA Cups.

Both brothers were known for their cricketing too, with Dennis the more accomplished batters out of the two. He gathered 39,000 career runs at an average of 52, he also secured 3,816 runs out on the pavilion for not only Middlesex at county level but also his country England at an average of 91, involving 18 centuries in the mix too. His love affair with Middlesex cricket club was evident with him holding the position of president for seven years till his death in 1997, aged 78. One of England’s finest cricketers was also handed a CBE in 1958 as congratulations of his sporting achievement as a National sporting hero.

With his cricket career and World War Two overthrowing his footballing days Denis still made the best of his abilities and the time available to him at Highbury out on the left flank for Arsenal. The young whippersnapper showboated his firepower on his debut scoring versus Derby in the First Division in September 1936, after having been at The Gunners for the previous four years in the junior teams. Although he would still move in and out of the two teams before being idolised even further for finding the back of the net five times twice for the reserves. During WW2 from 1939-1945 Compton was still able to play his fare share of games for the Gunners and made 120 appearances and scoring a credible 74 times as well as representing England 12 times, unfortunately though for him and many other players during this period in time all war football efforts didn’t  go rewarded in the record books.

Compton tasted more success than ever in football come the return of peacetime football and in 1948 he clinched his one and only league title at Highbury with 14 games to his name. Within two years Dennis received an FA Cup Winners medal following a 2-0 triumph versus Liverpool at Wembley before retiring from football for good.

On the football field at least his brother Leslie outshone him where to this day he holds the record for the longest reigning player at Arsenal, after spending 22 years in North London between 1930 and 1952.

However he did also play cricket alongside Dennis at Middlesex where he ticked off 5,000 first class runs and held wicket for England from 1938 to 1956.

Returning to Highbury Compton played over 250 games astonishingly for The Gunners where he won two extra trophies than Dennis with the 1938 and 1948 Charity Shield winners’ medals in his collection.

The defender pulled on the Arsenal shirt for the first time in 1932 at Villa Park against Aston Villa under the reign of legendary manager Herbert Chapman who made The Gunners into what they’re today. However Leslie struggled to cement a place in the first team for the rest of the decade, it wasn’t until 1946 that he featured regularly in Arsenals back four after World War Two which stole six years of his playing career.  Despite War on the front of their minds in one game Compton mustered up overwhelming scoring prowess against Leyton Orient, netting ten unexpected goals in an impressive 15-2 demolition after being shifted into a backup talisman.

In 1948 like brother Dennis, Leslie was heralded a league title hero at Arsenal to seal their seventh title in 17 years since the first was won in 1931 under Chapman.

Leading up to the famous 1950 FA Cup victory which Leslie was included in, he ensured Arsenal reached the final after scoring the goal which sent the original semi-final toss up against Chelsea to a replay when losing 2-1 at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane. This was one of only six strikes at Arsenal but a critical one.

On the Global stage Compton was capped for England twice being merited the feat of the oldest British footballer of 38 years, two months and three days to be chosen for the country in 1950, where he won two caps versus Wales and Yugoslavia.

After hanging up his boots in 1953 Leslie remained committed to the North Londoners as a coach and later scout, before dying 13 years before his brother in 1984.

What a unique set of sporting individuals, how many brothers do you know in the Premier League yet alone Football League who have played both football and cricket alongside each other?

Liam Harding

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  1. I met Denis Compton when he spoke at the AGM of the cricket club I played for.He was very amusing when he spoke, and was even funnier when he played the room.

    As captain, it was job my job to take the jug of beer around.

    When I reached Denis, he was taking his own Jug around. But his jug contained Gin and Tonic.

    I took a glass and and some tipple from his jug and I joined him in a toast to our Club, and spoke to him about how he managed his two careers.

    A great person!!

  2. and they talk a bout a packed schedule now, imagine playing football for Arsenal in the winter and then cricket for England in the summer!

    imagine being that good at two sports!!

  3. Thank you Liam. I hope all who come here will reade will read your article on two of Arsenal’s great past.

    A timely reminder of a great past coming as it does almost at the end of another great Arsenal year, no matter its final outcome.

    Thank you.


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