George Drury: the man who refused to be sent off against Moscow Dynamo

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.

Drury played his first game for Arsenal in match 32 of the 42 match 1937/8 league season playing at inside left.  Bastin, the original inside left had moved to outside left earlier in the season and Leslie Jones and Eddie Carr taking over the number 10.   It was Middlesbrough 2 Arsenal 1.  A poor opening game, but in the next ten matches (in which he played each time) Arsenal only lost twice and won the league
George Drury played all of the last eleven games, nine times at inside left, once at inside right and once at outside right.
He thus won the championship with Arsenal, but then perhaps surprisingly, didn’t play in the opening ten games for the 1938/9 season (in which Arsenal had a very poor start, winning only three times), but then returned playing both inside left and inside right on 23 occasions, and scoring three goals.   He made four appearances in the first eight games of the 1946/7 season, but that was it.  His last league match was Arsenal 0 Derby 1 on 21 September 1946.   It left Arsenal struggling, after two wins, one draw and four defeats in the first seven.  Even more worrying, although Arsenal had scored 10 goals, nine of them came from Reg Lewis – a very unsatisfactory dependence on one player.
Worse was to come as Arsenal only got one win in the next seven – but by then Drury had left the club, for in October 1946 he moved to West Brom and later continued his career at Watford, Linby Colliery, Darlaston and South Normanton before retiring from football and living in Hucknall.   I am sorry to say I have no further information on his life after football save that he died in June 1972.
However Bernard Joy does mention Drury in his autobiography Forward Arsenal! In the book he is critical of the purchase of Drury complaining that Allison made the mistake after the 1938 league championship triumph of going into the transfer market in a “half hearted way.  He secured men below the best class in George Drury and Leslie Jones.  It was worse than not having bought any at all as he had to play them to justify the transfers.”
Of Drury particularly he says, “He had a speed off the mark and a quickly delivered shot which enabled him to snap up trifles in the goalmouth but he lacked depth and imagination to hold an attack together.  Furthermore he was temperamental and in consequence rather unreliable.”But he also had a sense of cheekiness too, as we can find from his involvement in a match that occurred before the resumption of the league after the war.  The third match of a four match series of games played by Moscow Dynamo on 21 November 1945.

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.

Season Team Lge Games Lge Goals
1936/38 Sheffield Wednesday 44 9
1938/46 Arsenal 38 3
1946/48 West Bromwich Albion 29 8
1948/50 Watford 35 3
Linby Colliery
Total 146 23

As always, if you know any more please do tell.

The books

2 Replies to “George Drury: the man who refused to be sent off against Moscow Dynamo”

  1. A really interesting and funny history. Trying is imagine the match, I could see a lot of funny scenes that can only be seen in children playful matches

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