by Tony Attwood
George Drury was born in Hucknell on 22 January 1914 played 40 times for Arsenal either side of the Second World War. He played for Heanor and Sheffield Wednesday in September 1934 and moved to Arsenal for £7,000 in March 1938. He won a championship winners’ medal and he also played in the notorious post-war match against Moscow Dynamo.
The Russian club had opened against Chelsea with a 3-3 draw, before going off to play third division south side Cardiff City – a team of part-timers who they beat 10-1. Quite who devised the fixture list I have no idea but I suspect the League and the FA were at loggerheads as normal – and the animosity between the two was clear through the tour. It is also possible that the Russians wanted to play in the different parts of the kingdom, and so had to play Cardiff, Wales’ top club.
Next came the Arsenal match – which had to be played at Tottenham because Highbury was still out of use following the war. An attempt was made to play at Wembley, but this was holding a greyhound racing meeting that evening, and the FA refused to budge on the issue.
At this time, most clubs were missing a lot of players who had either been injured or killed in the war, or who had survived but were still overseas or waiting to be demobilised. So Arsenal included in their line up Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen and Joe Bacuzzi. The tour concluded with a match against Rangers.
If we take a look at the Arsenal game, we can see just why it became notorious. The commentary is in Russian.
It is said that the Moscow side were taken aback by the inclusion of England players in the game, and pleas that Arsenal were lacking Eddie Hapgood and the Compton brothers didn’t really mean much to them. To the Russians it looked like cheating.
George Allison was at his erudite best in the pre-match interviews saying, “I regard this match as a sporting encounter. I hope that the Russians would welcome an opportunity of testing their skill against a more experienced team of English players rather than the privilege or pleasure or toying with immature material.”
It is doubtful whether the translation into Russian really carried the undertones. Or indeed the meaning.
The fog, which was a commonplace part of London scenery in the days before the Clean Air Act of 1956 (introduced following an even worse smog in 1952), made it look like the game would be called off, but the match had a Russian referee and he ordered it to be played.
54,000 or so were in the ground, but they really did not catch much of the action. Moscow scored in the first minute but then Arsenal retaliated and took a 3-1 lead by half time. The fog got worse, and the Russian referee took the unusual step of having the two linesmen on one side of the pitch and himself on the other. No one who commentated on this could see how it helped much.
Moscow came back and look the lead, and worried about injuries George Allison conceded the match, but this offer was declined. Then it was noticed with 20 minutes to go that following a substitution Moscow had 12 men on the pitch. After some debate the matter was resolved.
Next Drury was sent off for trying to force the ball out of the Moscow keepers hands (as the keeper had the habit of lying on the ball every time he got it and just staying there.) Drury trudged over to the tunnel, but then apparently kept going, stayed on the pitch and continued playing on the side of the pitch away from the referee. Stanley Matthews told the story later that on seeing Drury he said, “I thought you were sent off” to which Drury replied that he “couldn’t find the tunnel in the fog”.
After the match George Allison alleged that he had heard the coach of Moscow tell the referee to call the game off if Arsenal took the lead. But, since there is no record anywhere of Allison, erudite and educated as he was, speaking Russian, it is hard to see how he could have done. The Russians departed claiming that the famous English sense of fair play was a myth, and went on to Ibrox to play Rangers in a 2-2 draw.
Here’s Drury’s career. We know he played for Heanor Town up to 1934, and was an amateur reserve player with Sheffield Wednesday from 1934 to 1936.
|West Bromwich Albion
As always, if you know any more please do tell.