Leslie Compton

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Leslie Compton
Leslie Compton 1947-09-19.jpg
Compton in 1947
Personal information
Full name Leslie Harry Compton
Date of birth (1912-09-12)12 September 1912
Place of birth Woodford, Essex, England
Date of death 27 December 1984(1984-12-27) (aged 72)
Place of death Hendon, London, England
Playing position(s) Centre half, right back
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1930–1952 Arsenal 253 (5)
National team
1950 England 2 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Leslie Harry Compton (12 September 1912 – 27 December 1984) was an English sportsman who played football and cricket for Arsenal and Middlesex, respectively. He gained two England caps late in his football career, and remains the oldest outfield player to debut for England (and the oldest post-war debutant in any position). His brother, Denis, was also a footballer and cricketer for Arsenal and Middlesex, though Leslie was more successful in football and Denis in cricket.

Football career[edit]

Compton was born Woodford, Essex and played football for Middlesex Schools before joining Arsenal as an amateur in 1930. He would spend his entire senior club career at Arsenal, over a period of 22 years, making him one of the club's longest-ever serving players. He made his debut on 24 April 1932 against Aston Villa in a 1–1 draw at Villa Park, two months after he had turned professional.

He started out as a right-back, and deputised for Tom Parker in the early 1930s, before George Male was converted to that position and became Parker's long-term replacement. Relegated to reserve team football, Compton only played 13 first-team games in four seasons. By 1935–36 he had started to feature more regularly, playing 12 games that season and 15 the next, but missed out on a First Division winners' medal in 1937–38 as he only managed 9 appearances that season.[1]

Despite being down the pecking order throughout the 1930s and missing out on the success that Arsenal enjoyed, Compton stuck with Arsenal and won a Charity Shield winners' medal in 1938–39, playing 19 times that season. However the Second World War then intervened; Compton served in the Army while continuing to play football for Arsenal. Converted to an emergency centre-forward, he once scored ten times in a wartime match against Leyton Orient, which finished 15–2 to Arsenal. He also guested for Chester, scoring a hat-trick against Everton during the 1942–43 season.[2] In June 1940, he was one of five Arsenal players who guested for Southampton in a victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage.[3]

After the war had ended, he reverted to defence, becoming a mainstay in the Arsenal side at centre half. Although he missed the first six games of the 1947–48 due to cricketing commitments but was a near ever-present for the remainder of the season, as Arsenal won the First Division title and Compton finally earned a top-class honour; his brother, Denis, had also by this time established himself in the Arsenal side and won a medal as well. During the close season, he succeeded Joe Mercer as Arsenal captain, but relinquished the armband soon after, saying Mercer deserved the honour more.

Compton went on to win the FA Cup in 1949–50, scoring a last-minute equaliser in the Gunners' semi-final against Chelsea, heading a corner kick from his brother Denis to level the match 2–2; Arsenal won the replay 1–0, and then beat Liverpool in the final. Compton's form was such that he was selected for England for their match against Wales on 15 November 1950, making him, at 38 years and 64 days, the oldest post-war England debutant and the oldest ever outfield player to debut. These records still stand. Alexander Morten holds the all-time record.

He was a regular in the Arsenal side until the start of the 1951–52 season, during which he only played four matches. He decided to retire from playing football in the 1952 close season; in total he played 273 matches and scored 6 goals. He stayed on at Arsenal for another three years as a coach and scout.

Cricket career[edit]

Cricket information
Domestic team information
Career statistics
Competition First-class
Matches 274
Runs scored 5,814
Batting average 16.75
100s/50s 1/24
Top score 107
Balls bowled 1,069
Wickets 12
Bowling average 47.41
5 wickets in innings 0
10 wickets in match 0
Best bowling 2/21
Catches/stumpings 470/129
Source: Cricinfo, 23 May 2019

Compton also played cricket for Middlesex, playing as wicket-keeper from 1938 to 1956. He appeared 272 times, scoring 5,814 runs (an average of 16.75), and taking 468 catches and 131 stumpings. Together with his brother, he won the 1947 County Championship title with Middlesex, making them the only brothers ever to have won the national title both in football and cricket. Unlike Denis though, Leslie never played Test cricket for England.

Retirement and death[edit]

After retiring he ran the "Prince of Wales" pub in Highgate High Street, north London. He died in Hendon in December 1984, from complications due to diabetes, aged 72; his foot had been amputated two years previously because of this. He was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium where his ashes remain.[4]




  1. ^ "1937–38 competition statistics". 11v11.com. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  2. ^ Sumner, Chas (1997). On the Borderline: The Official History of Chester City 1885–1997. p. 59. ISBN 1-874427-52-6.
  3. ^ Holley, Duncan; Chalk, Gary (1992). The Alphabet of the Saints. ACL & Polar Publishing. p. 391. ISBN 0-9514862-3-3.
  4. ^ England Football Online
  • Harris, Jeff (1995). Hogg, Tony (ed.). Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports. ISBN 1-899429-03-4.

External links[edit]