Memories of Johnny Haynes

THERE was, you might feel, a fearful symmetry about the recent death at the age of 71 of Johnny Haynes, 17 years a, or rather the, star Fulham player, 56 times capped at inside-left for England for whom he played in two World Cups. His career was severely affected when he smashed up his knee in a night-time car crash in Blackpool, where Fulham were due to play a League game. He was somewhat strangely accompanied by a local courtesan called Mrs. Max and though he eventually resumed his career with Fulham, he would never play for England again.

Then in October, he appeared to lose consciousness when driving his car in Edinburgh, where somewhat surprisingly he had chosen to make his home. The resultant crash would cost him his life and would severely injure his wife, Avril. A few days later I was at Craven Cottage, the picturesque Thames side ground, which he graced for so long, to see his old chum, left-winger and frequent irritant "Tosh" Chamberlain place a wreath at the edge of the centre circle before the kick-off. Who better than Chamberlain to do it? He and Haynes were chalk and cheese, night and day, the strangest of left wing partnerships. Technically supreme, a superb passer of the ball, whether it be inside the full-back to Chamberlain on the left wing, a long crossfield ball to the right flank or a perfectly calibrated through pass, often exploited by the bearded Jimmy Hill, Haynes was the inspiration of a team which often tried his hardly inexhaustible patience. "Much hands on hipping from Haynes," once wrote the shrewd football correspondent Bob Ferrier, himself the son of a once famous outside-left.

There was a day at Craven Cottage when Haynes gave Chamberlain one of his perfectly calibrated passes, only for Tosh, whose left foot was as powerful as it was erratic, to blaze the ball high over the bar. Haynes pantomimed his exasperation. "Ain't he a **** big head!" cried Tosh. Mervyn Griffiths, the Welsh referee, the linesman in 1954 in Berne, who'd contentiously ruled Ferenc Puskas offside for what would have been Hungary's equalising World Cup Final goal in the game against Germany, rushed up to Tosh. "What's that? What's your name?" he demanded. "Don't be a **** ref!" answered Tosh, "he's on our side!"

I also relish the tale of the time when Fulham were playing Sampdoria in Genoa in a friendly game, and got a free kick on the edge of the opposing penalty box. "Chip it, Tosh!" said Haynes, whereupon Chamberlain ran at the ball and delivered a ferocious shot. "If it hadn't been for the net," another Fulham player told me, "the ball would have ended in the Mediterranean!" As they went back to the centre circle for the kick-off, Haynes told Chamberlain, "I told you to chip it, Tosh!"

"I did!" said Chamberlain.

There were very early signs that Haynes would be a famous player. He was a tiny 15-year-old when he played for England schoolboys against Scotland at Wembley, and turned the opposition inside out. A huge crowd watched the game at the Empire Stadium, but it was also shown on television; which at that time was seldom allowed to transmit a live match of any description. So little Haynes became at 15 already a national figure. In time he would grow to five foot 10.

Was it because of his initially short stature that bigger clubs than Fulham, much loved but never very successful, did not acquire him? He was after all born and brought up in Edmonton, on virtually the doorstep of the Spurs in North East London, while it was known that the walls of his bedroom were festooned with pictures of players with Arsenal, the other great North London club.

But it was to Fulham he went and at Fulham he stayed, becoming in the meanwhile the very first English player to be paid �100 a week; a fortune, then. That was in 1961 when the iniquitous �20 a week maximum wage was abolished after generations, largely thanks to the efforts of Jimmy Hill, as Chairman of the Professional Footballers Association. Milan and Roma both wanted Haynes then. A Roma emissary, their wily old Press officer Collaluci, came to see me in the flat I had then in South Kensington. I told him Haynes, apart from his new salary, also had a bookmaking business, which he ran with a colleague who might not be wholly reliable. "But how much could he steal?" demanded Collaluci, with Roman pragmatism. "With what we could pay, it wouldn't matter!"

I first set eyes on Haynes when he was wearing RAF uniform in Bologna early in 1954 when England played and lost 3-0 the first ever Under-23 international. Haynes didn't get on the field that day, but England's Under-23s took a major revenge a year later at Stamford Bridge when Haynes inspired them with his passes to a 5-1 victory.

He wasn't at his best for either of his World Cups. In Gothenburg in 1958, he seemed weary after Fulham's brave passage to the semi-final of the FA Cup and a protracted battle for promotion from Division 2 against Blackburn and Charlton while he was also said to be suffering from blistered feet. In Chile in 1962 he was a somewhat petulant captain, largely you might say, found out by international opposition, who could read the game he played and where he would pass.

Looking back at one's match reports of the late 1950s, I find numerous tributes to his skills. Even when he might be overshadowed by a performance by the opposing playmaker, as when Fulham met Burnley at the Cottage and Jimmy McIlroy of Northern Ireland excelled, he could have the last laugh, putting Hill through to head the only goal. And he and England had revenge on the USSR who had knocked them out in Sweden, thrashing them with five goals at Wembley the next season; three fiercely struck by Haynes.