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He played in goal for Boro, but delivered a punch to make a boxer proud; BORO'S PLAYERS HARDESTHARDEST PART 6: DAVE CUMMING.

IT takes one almighty punch to spark out a six foot four brick outhouse of a man.

Fiercely competitive Arsenal centre-back Leslie Compton was a physical giant and a sporting legend who played both football and cricket for England and was laden down with medals in both sports.

But his stature and reputation proved little protection when Boro keeper Dave Cumming (pictured right) showed his own dual discipline sporting versatility by hitting him square in the chops with a blow any professional boxer would be proud of.

The hard-hitting Scottish shotstopper delivered the staggering right hook during a lively climax to an infamous full-blooded 2-0 win over the Gunners at Ayresome Park in December 1946.

In a legendary heavyweight clash at the Holgate End, the keeper reacted to a kick from Compton in a penalty box melee after a corner by clearing the ball then calmly striding over to his adversary and clinically landing a hefty haymaker to the jaw.

The towering Arsenal skipper went down in a heap while players from both sides and the referee stood gaping in open-mouthed shock.

Unrepentant Cumming casually peeled off his jersey and, without a word, handed it to team-mate Johnny Spuhler before walking off the pitch and down the tunnel without waiting for the referee to dismiss him.

The Boro supporters were furious that Compton did not also get sent off and Ayresome Park echoed to angry booing for the last few minutes of the game.

It was an explosive end to an encounter that had simmered and fizzed for an hour.

Arsenal, usefully, had a practising doctor in their team, the outside left O'Flanagan, and he had already been called into action several times during what the Gazette conceded was "a robust encounter."

And Cumming had been at the centre of the first aid action. Arsenal wing-half Collett had earlier needed attention after Cumming had clattered him coming out to clear a cross, then the doctor was on call again after Joe Mercer had been steam-rollered by the fired-up custodian then both the keeper himself and Compton were left groggy after a mid-air clash.

Aberdonian Cumming usually played the game with a broad smile on his face and relished the weekly physical challenge of battling with bustling forwards. He would routinely shrug off even the most powerful and brutal shoulder charges with a grin and quip.

And the fearless Scottish international - a strapping six footer himself - was hailed by team-mates and pundits alike for his bravery in diving in at the feet of on-rushing opponents risking life and limb among the flying studs and steeltipped boots.

Keepers were a breed apart. They faced heavy punishment in every game as they were regularly charged full in the ribs while climbing to collect crosses or bundled over by opponents steaming in with the ball only a secondary target. And all completely legal.

Keepers had to be rock hard, courageous and keep a cool head. Normally Cumming managed with good humour. But team-mates - and he himself - admitted he "had a short temper" and was prone to odds moments of madness.

It must have been one of those games. Early in the second half after an Arsenal attack broke down, he went on a crazy mazy dribble out of his box and got almost to the halfway line before losing the ball and then had to dash back and salvage the situation with a hefty challenge from behind on Gunners centre-forward Jones.

With tempers bubbling, both sides had goals disallowed. Then with Arsenal piling on the pressure, Boro faced a barrage of free-kicks and corners into the box which led to a tetchy battle between Cumming and battering ram Compton.

The referee missed the flashpoint kick from Compton that caught Cumming on the knee, but by then the keeper had opted for vigilante action.

It was Boro's first sending off for a decade and their first ever for a keeper in an era when only the most violent of offences earned sanction.

The Scot, who had incredible reflexes and excellent positioning as well as fists of fury, had arrived at Boro in a pounds 3,000 deal from Arbroath in 1936 and quickly became a key player in a promising side that was to challenge for the title in years before World War Two. He returned after the war and was just as solid a keeper but his high risk occupation was to cut his career short.

At the end of the term of the Arsenal punch-up, he dislocated a knee landing heavily playing against Blackpool and, after a string of operations and a lengthy stay in hospital, he was forced to retire.

DAVE CUMMING - THE VERDICT Nails rating: 9 - could take it as well as dish it out.

Skills rating: 5 - a great keeper but a dodgy dribbler.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 28, 2010
Words:804
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