Leigh Roose: The 'reckless', controversial war hero who kept goal for Arsenal

Goalkeeper Leigh Roose – an early 20th-century cross between the theatrical Bruce Grobbelaar and the physically intimidating Peter Schmeichel – was one of football's most colourful and controversial characters. Roose's distinctive playing style, natty attire (padded knee bandages, twin peaked cap) and occasionally scandalous social life made him, according to the Daily Mail in 1905, London's second-most eligible bachelor behind cricket legend Jack Hobbs.

Not bad for a player who, for several years, had appeared more likely to commit himself to a career in bacteriology, after studying medicine for a short period at King's College London. His Presbyterian minister father, Richmond Leigh Roose, wanted him to pursue a "respectable profession" – but his single-minded son had other ideas. At 6ft 1in and weighing around 13 stone, the physically imposing Roose was ideally built for the position of goalkeeper, and in the rough-and-tumble Edwardian game, with the shoulder charge part and parcel, he deployed every ounce of his strength to flourish in between the sticks. 

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Jon Spurling

Jon Spurling is a history and politics teacher in his day job, but has written articles and interviewed footballers for numerous publications at home and abroad over the last 25 years. He is a long-time contributor to FourFourTwo and has authored seven books, including the best-selling Highbury: The Story of Arsenal in N5, and Get It On: How The '70s Rocked Football was published in March 2022.