BY Vince Cooper

OFTEN we look back at a footballer’s career and wonder ‘what might have been’. One move, one new teammate, one positional change and everything could have worked out so different.

Such is surely the case with Johnny Haynes who, had he been with one of the country’s bigger clubs rather than spending his entire career in the homely confines of Craven Cottage, might now be remembered worldwide as one of the true greats. There were certainly times when he seemed a step ahead of his teammates playing defence-opening passes to where they should have been rather than where they were.

That’s taking nothing away from Haynes who had a great career nor from the West London club who moved heaven and earth to keep him and whose faithful had a true hero who decided to stay in their midst.

He also won 56 caps for his country and at the time his international career came to a premature end after a car accident, he was captain of England having just led them at the World Cup and might have remained so for some time, possibly even until 1966.

John Norman Haynes was born in Kentish Town, North West London on 17 October 1934 the only child of Ed and Rose. The Haynes family lived in Edmonton within walking distance of White Hart Lane.

Ed worked as a shoe-tree manufacturer before being called up and spending the last two years of World War 2 in Burma, during which time Rose worked in a munitions factory.

A fanatic football player from a young age Johnny quickly became the star player for the Houndsfield Road Primary School team, following in the footsteps of his dad who had played inside-forward, until he was evacuated to Manchester. Eventually Ed, now stationed in Reading, travelled north to bring him home and he celebrated by scoring 10 goals in his first match back.

Johnny earned a scholarship to Latymer High Grammer School but, while he was a good student, it was all about football. He clearly had natural talent and proved impossible to get the ball off. Soon he was playing with children four or five years older than him and attracting attention from big clubs.

In 1946 he was chosen for Edmonton boys and immediately made captain. Blessed with tremendous vision and passing ability the then inside-left was clearly the star of his district team. School studies suffered as, under the watchful eye of his dad, he devoted all his spare time to improving his football ability. Word quickly spread and he was chosen to play for London boys.

Jimmy Logie. A hero for young Johnny

Johnny’s favourite team growing up was Arsenal, his love of the team fuelled by an uncle who was a season ticket holder and would take him to matches often to watch his boyhood hero Jimmy Logie play. Other players he admired were Eddie Baily of Spurs and Middlesbrough’s Wilf Mannion. All three were inside-forwards and relatively diminutive but used their skills to help them get the better of bigger opponents.

Quickly rising through the ranks, by the age of 13 Haynes was in the England schoolboys team for the first time playing in a 4-3 win over Northern Ireland and then starring, and scoring in a 6-1 hammering of Wales in front of 40,000 fans at Hillsborough. But the match that really introduced the youngster as a star of the future came in April 1950 and was an 8-2 Wembley win over Scotland where he scored twice and earned praise from all. To add to his exposure the game was shown on T.V. turning the youngster into a household name almost overnight. The only knock against the ‘boy wonder’ was his diminutive stature (he was still only 5ft 1in) and lack of weight. Would he be able to stand up to bigger, tougher opponents?

Spurs manager Arthur Rowe clearly thought he would be able to withstand the toughness of the wizened half-back populating league teams. He was keen to take him to his local club whilst Arsenal’s Tom Whittaker gave him a tour of Highbury. So he could have chosen the team on his doorstep or the one he supported.

Growing up, Johnny ‘idolised’ Arsenal. When he played football at Edmonton’s Jubilee Park as a youngster ‘the teams were always Arsenal and Tottenham’. ‘I always played for Arsenal’ he would say later while adding; ‘I dreamed of the day when I would wear the red and white shirt’. And of course, as an Arsenal fan he could; ‘never see myself joining Tottenham’.

When he made his decision it came as a surprise to Rowe, Whittaker and many others. Johnny, greatly influenced by his best friends ‘Tosh’ Chamberlain and Luigi Carretta who were teammates in the London Schools side and were already at the club he decided to join Fulham, where perhaps there was less competition and a clearer path to the first team. So it was off to Craven Cottage where he signed as an amateur in the summer of 1950.

His first job with the Cottagers was as an office boy and he was on £3 10s a week.

Over the next two years Haynes spent most of his time at Craven Cottage training with the first-team players or being coached by former inside-forward Taffy O’Callaghan, now in charge of the reserves. With Fulham having no youth team of their own he was sent out on loan to a number of clubs, including Wimbledon then in the Isthmian League, to help develop his skills against adult opposition. He also developed physically, shooting up from the skinny 5ft kid who had joined the club to 5ft 8in and 11 stone, and seemed more able to look after himself on the pitch.

In action for England schoolboys at Wembley

In May 1952 and with Spurs, Arsenal and Wolves all hovering and hoping to make a move, Haynes signed professional forms with Fulham, fully nine months after he had reached his 17th birthday and been eligible to do so. He had held off on turning pro so that he could skipper England in the FIFA International Youth Tournament in Spain where they finished 4th.

Johnny at 16

Having stood out in the pre-season match between the first-team and the reserves – ‘Johnny was the Star’ said the headline in the Fulham Chronicle – he was kept waiting for his debut until Boxing Day 1952. ‘I was very nervous, more I’ve ever been before or since’ Haynes would later recall of preparing for the 1-1 Second Division (The Cottagers had been relegated in the previous season) home draw with Southampton.

In the dressing room with Bedford Jezzard and Charlie Mitten

Haynes was left out of the rematch the following day but was back in the side a week later and stayed for the rest of the season forming an inside-forward trio with Bobby Robson and Bedford Jezzard.

The Cottagers started the following season poorly but they recovered well to finish 8th, coinciding with some excellent performances from their new young star. In January 1954 Haynes was chosen as a reserve for the England ‘Intermediate’ team that played Italy in Bologna and in March he was played for the ‘B’ team in a 1-1 draw with Scotland at Roker Park.

With England greats Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney

That summer England were knocked out at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup and were thrashed for the second time in a year by Hungary (a match for which he was a reserve).

The team line-up for Johnny’s debut

For the first match of the new campaign, on 2 October 1954, Haynes aged just 19, was one of seven new caps, and he scored one and had a hand in the other in a 2-1 win over Northern Ireland in Belfast. The other scorer that day was fellow debutant, Don Revie.

‘Sign please!’

Johnny’s reward for the performance in Belfast… was to be dropped for England’s next match. In fact he didn’t win another cap for a year during which he made four starts for the under-23s and two more for the ‘B’ team. In one those matches, the young team’s win over Denmark, Henry Rose of the Daily Express described his performance as ‘The greatest one-man soccer show I have seen’.

Such form saw Haynes finally win his second cap against the same country – Northern Ireland – as he’d won his first. Playing at inside-right, he was a major factor in the 3-0 win, making goals for Dennis Wilshaw and Tommy Finney. This time he was in for good.

On the cottage steps with teammates Bobby Robson and Bedford Jezzard

Whilst his international career was now moving forward, little of note was happening at club level with Fulham seemingly mired in 2nd Division mid-table obscurity. There was talk of a triple bid from Newcastle of £60,000 for Haynes, Jezzard and Robson and the speculation heightened after the North East club won a thrilling cup tie at Craven Cottage 5-4. But all three remained in West London.

Helped off by Yugoslav goalkeeper Vladimir Beara

The 1956-57 season proved a difficult one for Haynes. In his first international of the new season he was carried off (by Yugoslav goalkeeper Beara) after injuring his leg. Another injury forced him out of the World Cup qualifier against Denmark. Duncan Edwards was moved up into the inside-left role and scored twice.

An injured Haynes watches England train at Stamford Bridge

Haynes didn’t play for his country again until May 1957 when, after overcoming his injury problems he was recalled for the 5-1 win over Ireland. After this he had an unbroken run of 17 matches for his country including the 1958 World Cup in Sweden where England fell to a playoff defeat by the USSR.

After that World Cup performance Haynes enjoyed easily his best season so far for his club. He top-scored with 25 goals as Fulham, under new boss and former teammate Jezzard, finished runners-up to Sheffield Wednesday in the 2nd Division and made it back to the top flight after a seven-year absence.

Chaired off at Wembley with the Home International trophy

Early in the campaign he also produced one of his best performances for his country as, with some calling for him to be left out, he scored a hat-trick as England gained small revenge for their World Cup ousting by thrashing the USSR 5-0 at Wembley. Soon after came a dazzling display as skipper in England’s 9-3 win over Scotland that clinched the Home International Championship.

He had quickly become the fulcrum of the national team and brought about a fundamental change to England’s playing style. His pinpoint accuracy with passes, long or short allowed his country to spring into the attack with more pace rather than the somewhat overworked and laborious style they had become used to (and known for by opponents who could plan ways to combat the approach). Johnny added a touch of the unexpected and it was no longer the case of ‘get it out to Matthews (or Finney) and let’s hope he beats the full back and delivers a good cross’.

Fulham, with Haynes running the show, enjoyed a satisfactory first season back in the top tier, finishing 10th but after that it was almost constant relegation battles for the team, occasional relief coming in the FA Cup including a run to the semi-final in 1962. Johnny actually played better in the top flight where he had a little more time on the ball and there was a little less physicality.

With teammates Jimmy Hill and the wisecracking Maurice Cook

At around this time Haynes started appearing regularly in adverts for Brylcreem and Milk and he was quickly becoming ‘The Face of Football’. It is sobering to remember that back then, players were on a maximum wage of £20 per week (£17 in summer). When centre-forward Maurice Cook went to see manager Jezzard about a new deal he was offered £18 in the season and £15 in the summer. Cook complained that Haynes was on more to which Jezzard replied; ‘He’s a better player than you’. Cook quickly countered ‘Not in the summer!’

‘Brylcreem Boy’

Johnny’s form was so good at that time that it was reported that Milan had bid £100,000 for his services. And the player soon found out that the rumours were true when he received a call from the Italian club’s representative offering him a £15,000 signing-on fee along with an estimated £8,000 to £9,000 per year in salary and bonuses.

Three greats: Johnny with Stanley Matthews and Danny Blanchflower

On 18 January 1961 Johnny’s teammate Jimmy Hill, in his role as leader of the PFA, had got the maximum wage abolished. Milan’s offer for Haynes put him in an excellent position to get a big raise from Fulham chairman Tommy Trinder. The England skipper went to see his chairman at his home in Esher and after five minutes of negotiations emerged with a new deal worth five times his current salary at a whopping £100 per week, setting a new record for players salaries and causing consternation among other clubs who realised they would now need to raise their game accordingly.

Johnny shakes hands with Scotland skipper Eric Caldow

On the international scene the caps continued to mount. Perhaps the greatest honour had come on the 1960 end-of-season tour when Haynes replaced Ron Clayton as captain. He would keep the job for his remaining 22 England starts including leading his country at the 1962 World Cup in Chile and to a pair of home international championship wins.

The 1962 England World Cup squad

The 1962 World Cup came to an end for England at the quarter-final stage when Brazil, inspired by Garrincha, overcame Haynes and his team 3-1. It was Johnny’s 56th cap, and would prove to be his last. He scored 18 times for his country.

An appearance on Quiz Ball

The 1962-63 season for Fulham started with a 2-1 home win over Leicester City. The team then travelled north and lost to Sheffield United before moving to stay in Blackpool before the match at Bolton. Haynes went out on his own to meet someone and when he hadn’t returned an hour after the 11p.m. curfew, boss Jezzard became concerned. Then the police arrived to inform them that he had been involved in a car accident.

Haynes broke both legs in the crash, also damaging his right knee and was told he would never play football again.

But six months after the accident he was back in the Fulham side and although another knee injury set him back again he was in the team for the 1963-64 season.

Congratulated after setting up a goal for teammate Allan Clarke

Although never the same player (he would later admit that he never managed to regain full fitness) Haynes went on to play another 236 times for Fulham and there were still glimpses of the old ‘Maestro’ in his play. He even had a brief spell in the managerial hot seat, taking charge temporarily after the club sacked Bobby Robson in 1968.

When he did finally leave Fulham it was after 594 league matches in which he found the net 147 times. The move was to South Africa where he played for Durban City (coached by friend and former Fulham teammate Johnny Byrne), and led his new team to the title. He also reunited with Avril, a former girlfriend who he eventually married.

After the wedding the couple relocated to Edinburgh where Avril worked for a contract cleaning company and they jointly owned a dry cleaners. On 17 October 2005, his 71st birthday, Johnny picked her up and was driving home when he crashed the car after his foot jammed on the accelerator.

Avril had five broken ribs and a punctured lung. Johnny had suffered a brain haemorrhage and never regained consciousness, passing away a day later.

Johnny Haynes was undoubtedly one of the most skilful players England have produced. Able to find the killer pass, capable of holding off seemingly stronger opponents and blessed with great vision, he had it all. He also led football into a new era and was, perhaps its first superstar.

Fulham’s gain was the loss for others who coveted him and he spent his entire career battling either for promotion or against relegation rather than competing for honours. But there is no doubt that, at his best he was a truly world-class inside forward.

The statue at Craven Cottage

In 2008 a statue by Douglas Jennings was unveiled at Craven Cottage. The inscription calls him ‘The Maestro’ and there can be few better titles for a player still idolised in one corner of London.