by Paz Bassra
Born: 23/05/1918 (Hendon, Middlesex)
Died: 23/04/1997 (Windsor, Berkshire)
International: 12 wartime internationals for England, no official caps
Denis Compton is one of the greatest cricketers ever, as evidenced in his induction to the ICC
Cricket Hall of Fame in 2009. He had a batting average of 50, including 17 centuries, over
78 Tests. His first class record was also astounding: over 500 matches, nearly 39000 runs, at
an average of almost 52 with 123 centuries. On top of that, he was also a useful slow left-arm
Chinaman bowler with 25 Test wickets.
But what about Denis Compton the footballer?
A silky skilled winger with the ability to pop up in the box, Compton managed 16 goals in
60 games for Arsenal from 1936 to 1950. When Compton wasn’t scoring centuries he was
winning the league championship in 1948 and the FA Cup in 1950.
His sporting career was cruelly interrupted by WWII meaning that Compton spent his
prime years, from the ages of 27 to 32, only able to compete in unofficial wartime games.
He made 12 wartime appearances for an England representative football team whilst he
was stationed in India for the war, where he also played cricket for the Europeans in the
Bombay Quadrangular. Sadly, by the time he was able to play football again post-war he was
beginning to feel a knee injury. Eventually his right kneecap was removed in 1954 before
England toured Australia for The Ashes.
Compton’s dashing off-side shots in cricket were only matched by his smooth on-side
finishes on the football pitch. Compton was England’s favourite sportsman behind Sir
Stanley Matthews during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Like Matthews, Compton was smart
enough to cash in on his celebrity by becoming the face of Brylcreem.
David Beckham was the face of Brylcreem, played on the right-hand side for England and
is treated like a God. Compton did all that while fighting a war and winning The Ashes with
England in 1954/5 for the first time in 19 years, all whilst never misplacing a strand of hair.
Now that’s flair.