Johnny Haynes elevated the act of passing a football into an art form, and as a result he became Britain's first £100-a-week player in an era when that represented riches almost beyond comprehension. Yet, despite his stature as one of the most sumptuously gifted midfield generals of the 20th century, he spent two trophyless decades and virtually his entire career with unfashionable Fulham, a telling reflection of the sport's commercial transformation since his heyday in the 1950s and 1960s.
An imposing England captain, whose international days were curtailed prematurely by injuries suffered in a car crash, Haynes was a charismatic perfectionist whose deliciously imaginative distribution teased defenders to distraction. He was particularly adept at spearing long, penetrative passes through minuscule gaps in opposing rearguards, the weight and angle of these devilish dispatches invariably wrong-footing would-be interceptors, while his short-ball game could be equally devastating.
However, some critics accused the majestic Haynes of overawing lesser talents on his own side, and displays of melodramatic admonition were not unknown. Certainly, if a Fulham colleague failed to read his visionary intentions - which happened quite a lot, especially when the Cottagers were mired in the old Second Division - then the maestro might be spotted in attitudes of exaggerated disdain, hands on hips and oozing perplexity.
In fairness, perhaps he was castigating himself for not meeting his own ultra-demanding standards, but that was not an explanation which convinced his many Northern detractors, who saw Haynes as a pampered golden boy of the detested South. This view, undoubtedly rooted in jealousy, as he was a popular figure with fellow footballers everywhere he went, was massaged by his emergence as "the Brylcreem Boy" at a time when sportsmen's involvement in advertising was in its infancy.
The son of a Post Office engineer, Haynes was born in Kentish Town, on the doorstep of Tottenham Hotspur, and grew up supporting Arsenal, yet he opted to enlist with Fulham as a 15-year-old amateur in 1950, believing it would be easier to become established at comparatively humble Craven Cottage than at White Hart Lane or Highbury.
He was small for his age, measuring only 5ft tall on joining the club - once a month he stood with his back to the office safe so that his growth could be marked on the door - but even at that stage it was evident that his ability was immense.
Haynes burst into the wider public consciousness that spring, scintillating for England Schoolboys as they hammered their Scottish counterparts by eight goals to two in a match which, unusually for that time, was televised live. Despite his extreme youth, there were calls for the diminutive wunderkind to be plunged straight into first-team action, but Fulham handled his development cannily, loaning him out to local non-League sides, including Wimbledon, before calling him up for his senior début at the age of 18 in the home clash with Southampton on Boxing Day 1952.
Almost immediately Haynes became a fixture in a swashbucklingly entertaining but frustratingly inconsistent Fulham side, which maintained mid-table respectability in the Second Division throughout the mid-1950s, the club earning an enviable reputation for its friendly atmosphere but being a ready target for music-hall jibes about under-achievement.
The classy young play-maker, who also contributed his share of goals, was supported ably by the likes of the future England boss Bobby Robson, then an inside-forward, the prolific marksman Bedford Jezzard, the journeyman winger Trevor "Tosh" Chamberlain and the industrious midfielder Jimmy Hill, who would earn renown in 1961 as the leading light of the players' successful battle to outlaw the iniquitous maximum wage, a campaign from which Haynes was the most prominent early beneficiary. Later, the free- thinking Hill went on to succeed as a manager with Coventry and as a ubiquitous television broadcaster.
As Haynes began to peak towards the end of the decade, so the status of Fulham, now chaired by the comedian Tommy Trinder, improved correspondingly. In 1957/58 they finished fifth in the table and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, where they lost to Manchester United - admittedly still reeling from the depredations of the recent Munich air disaster - only after two pulsating contests.
Next, strengthened by the arrival of the dashing Scottish flankman Graham Leggat from Aberdeen, the following term Fulham won promotion to the top flight as runners-up to Sheffield Wednesday, then consolidated briefly among the élite before sliding to the unwelcome status of perennial strugglers against relegation.
Their fortunes were linked inexorably to those of Haynes, who had made his full international entrance while still a teenager, against Northern Ireland in 1954, and since become a star at that level. An ever-present in the England side which failed narrowly to reach the 1958 World Cup quarter-finals in Sweden, he scored a hat-trick against the USSR later that year and in 1960 he succeeded Ronnie Clayton as captain of his country, an honour he would retain for 22 consecutive games.
Now he became the creative fulcrum of a free-scoring attack which featured the goal-poacher supreme Jimmy Greaves and the spearhead Bobby Smith, with Bobby Charlton and Bryan Douglas on the wings. During one undefeated six-game period of 1960/61, Walter Winterbottom's exhilarating side totalled 40 goals while conceding only eight, the highlight being the 9-3 annihilation of Scotland, to which the skipper contributed two strikes.
That afternoon in the Wembley sunshine marked the pinnacle of Haynes's achievement, as he was chaired off amid scenes of ecstatic triumph worthy of any cup final, feted royally for an inspirational display which appeared to cement his eminence for the foreseeable future. Soon his status was underlined by a massive bid for his services from Internazionale of Milan but Fulham, now free of maximum-wage strictures, announced their mould-breaking pay award and spurned the offer.
Still only 26, Haynes appeared to be on the threshold of unlimited achievement, but gradually the script began to go awry. During the 1962 World Cup Finals in Chile he made little impact against well-organised defences, particularly those of Hungary and Brazil, who marked him tightly and stifled his effectiveness.
Then, in the following August, he was seriously injured in a road accident at Blackpool and barely played for the remainder of that season. He recovered fitness but found himself surplus to the requirements of the new England boss Alf Ramsey, who studiously ignored a concerted "Bring Back Johnny" campaign. Thus Haynes never added to his 56 caps, losing the captaincy to Bobby Moore and his schemer's role to Bobby Charlton, and missed out on World Cup glory in 1966.
Back on the club scene he remained in demand, however, and Tottenham Hotspur bid a then-record £90,000 to sign him in 1964 after their subtly magnificent Scottish play-maker John White met his death through a bolt of lightning on a golf course.
Although the move to Bill Nicholson's wealthy Spurs, one of the top sides in the land, would have offered the likelihood of garnering some medals in the twilight of his career, instead he remained the biggest fish in the comparatively tiny Fulham pool, where there were never sufficient funds to radically improve the team, and promising performers such as Alan Mullery had to be sold to balance the books.
Duly Haynes found himself immersed in successive demotion dogfights and after several narrow escapes he returned to the Second Division as Fulham finished bottom in 1967/68, then plummeted unthinkably into the Third a season later as their manager Bill Dodgin junior failed to arrest the headlong slide. Accordingly, one of the first superstars of modern times, a man who could transform a game with a fleeting moment of artistry, completed his final English term in the lower reaches of the Football League.
In 1970, having scored 157 times in 657 senior appearances for the Cottagers, the 35-year-old Haynes joined the South African club Durban City, for whom he played one season and, ironically, earned his first and only honour in club football by helping them to become champions.
An intelligent fellow, and demonstrably a loyal one, he never aspired to football management, maybe seeking to avoid the almost inevitable trauma such work entails, though he did tide his beloved Fulham over one crisis, spending 18 days as player-boss following the sacking of Bobby Robson in 1968.
After laying aside his boots in 1970, he left the game he had graced so nobly, and with his wife Avril ran a dry-cleaning business in Edinburgh.
Ivan PontingReuse content