Daily Telegraph January 27 1996
Fame is a capricious mistress. There was a time when Johnny Haynes was one of the most famous men in Britain. In the Fifties and the Sixties he was not only the most complete footballer in the land but also the Captain of England. The first footballer to be paid £100 a week and the man who smiled at you from the Brylcreem ads.
He was universally admired and around Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham Football Club, he was worshipped. Nowadays, whenever you mention his name, people say “Whatever happened to him?”
The other day a radio station offered a bottle of champagne to any listener who knew where he was. The curiosity was well meant and can be regarded as an indication he has not been forgotten.
On the other hand any suggestion the Haynes lives anywhere other than the Pantheon is an insult to anyone who saw him play. If you compile a list of the English players of the equal calibre then only Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, Tom Finney, and Stanley Matthews come to mind. Together they comprise the crown jewels of English football.
In fact Johnny Haynes is alive and well and living in Edinburgh (See below). He helps his wife run a dry cleaning business. He often delivers door to door. I wonder how many of his customers realise they are being served by a man who once masterminded the most humiliating defeat ever inflicted on the Scottish National team. It was April 15, 1961. England 9, Scotland 3. Jimmy Greaves scored a hat-trick, but it was Haynes, at his merciless best, who controlled the slaughter. He also scored twice.
Frank Haffey, the Scottish goalkeeper, lived the rest of his career with the noose of that defeat around his neck. The occasion was celebrated by a bitter joke. Scottish fan to Johnny Haynes: “What time is it?” Johnny Haynes: “Nine past Haffey.”
He was waiting for me in the arrival lounge at Edinburgh Airport. There wasn’t anyone marking him. He always had the knack of finding space. The hair was greyer than I remember but cut in the same, no nonsense, national service style. He is 61 and in very good nick.
As he leads the way to the car park I look at the broad and solid back, the rolling purposeful gait and imagine that is the view most defenders had of him when he was in his prime. Like his old friend Bobby Moore he is genuinely self effacing.
He knows his reputation and does not see the necessity to continue proving it. He would much rather gossip about his old friends in London than his life and times.
Again, like Bobby Moore, he throws you off the scent by asking questions, “Seen Jimmy (Hill)? How is he? Alright? What about Tom (Wilson)? Remember those lunches we we used to have? Good times weren’t they? Do you see anything of Bobby (Keetch)? He’s a character isn’t he. How’s George (Cohen)? Ever see him?” And so on until you are in danger of forgetting that he is supposed to be answering the questions not asking them.
When he finished at Fulham he spent a few years playing and coaching in South Africa. He played under his old friend “Budgie” Byrne, whose theories on man management were sometime as whimsical as his manner of playing. He once asked John if he could criticise him at a team meeting so that the rest of the players, who were in awe of Haynes, would think themselves in good company when the manager took them to task.
Haynes reluctantly agreed. “Remember”, said Budgie, knowing his friend’s short fuse, “Whatever you do, don’t answer back. It’s only pretend“. Came the day and Byrne was in the middle of dressing down Haynes when the player started answering back. What was meant as a dummy run became a full-scale slanging match as both men argued and nearly came to blows.
Haynes laughs at his inability to side-step an argument, even a make believe one. He never did. When he was one of the most famous names in football he managed to enjoy his celebrity without it ever dominating his life. Anyone imagining that temptation in those days was not as alluring and available as it is now never walked down the King’s Road in the Sixties nor understood Fulham FC’s affinity with the more glamorous, not to say raffish, elements of London Society.
Honor Blackman, know in those days as Cathy Gale or Pussy Galore, had a seat in the stand and there were more showbiz names on the terraces than would be found at the Royal Command Performance. It is rumoured that Johnny Haynes was unable to get into the treatment room for a massage because the facilities were being used to ‘prepare’ a greyhound for a big race.
Tommy Trinder was the Chairman and he was not the biggest comedian on Fulham’s books at the time. There was the immortal Tosh Chamberlain, whom God created for Johnny Haynes to shout at. It is difficult to imagine a more contrasting pair. Haynes the perfectionist, stern and meticulous. Chamberlain, carefree, and so careless of his talents as to appear, on occasions, slapdash, not to say doolally.
Anyone watching Fulham in those days is bound to remember Haynes with the ball at his feet, pointing Chamberlain down the wing. When he was in full flight Haynes would release a 30 or 40 yard pass of such exquisite direction and and pace the ball would drop like a snowflake onto Chamberlain’s right toe-cap.
What happened next would depend on the tide, or the state of the moon, or the juxtaposition of Mars with Venus, or from which side of the bed Tosh had alighted that morning. Sometimes he would continue his run, stride unbroken and crash the ball into the net with a ferocity unequalled in the days of heavy leather balls.
Chamberlain once broke a goalkeeper’s arm with a penalty. Playing an Italian club, the entire defensive wall broke ranks and fled in disarray as Tosh ran into to take a free kick. Equally he demolished a few corner flags in his trim and had also been known to smash the ball into the crowd behind the goal causing the kind of devastation normally associated with a six-inch mortar.
Sometimes he would trip over himself and fall flat on his face. On these occasions he would pick himself up and come face to face with an outraged Haynes, who would bawl him out. There was the famous moment when the argument got so heated the referee booked Tosh for abusive language. “But you can’t do that he’s on my bloody side.” said Tosh.
In those wonderful, intoxicating, funny days Fulham had a centre half called Bobby Keetch. Anyone tracing the family tree of the modern footballer and seeking the moment when he crossed the divide between sport and show-biz, made the change from snug to cocktail bar, started going to a hair stylist instead of a barber- should talk to Bobby Keetch about his name at Fulham.
Bobby Keetch drove a silver Lotus Elan sports car; bought his suits from a Mayfair tailor; ate at the Chantarelle in South Ken. Drank with Annigoni, the odd opera singer and one or two train robbers at the Pheasantry Club in Chelsea. He had great natural style and a compelling attraction to the opposite sex, particularly debs who had seen nothing quite like him. Nor had the rest of us.
Haynes was Bobby Keetch’s hero. Today the two men remain firm friends. Keetch, now a successful businessman, has little doubt that Haynes was amongst the best ever.
“One of the truly greats. I was 17 when I joined Fulham. John was captain of England. First day we went to a pub for lunch and I sat apart from the others. Didn’t dare speak. The team left and I asked for my bill. The landlord said that Johnny had paid for me. Didn’t have to, except he knew that as a young player I was likely to be broke and I was. It proved my theory that I never met a really great player who was a complete axxxhole”, he said. On the basis that people should reap what they sow, Keetch took Haynes and his wife to Rome to celebrate the great man’s 60th birthday. They prevented a lot of vino being consigned to the European wine lake.
The first time they went to Italy together was with Fulham. Haynes and Keetch were sitting in a restaurant in Venice when a beautiful woman asked Bobby Keetch if she might paint his portrait. Mr Keetch did not return with the main party. Haynes remains in awe of his friend’s panache.
Keetch says “his great hero is Tom Finney and I think John stands comparison. Like Finney he has been given a retrospective accolade. It’s only in recent years that people have come to realise they were both truly great players. Can you imagine a time when we were able to take footballers of that calibre for granted?”
I think John was the best passer of the ball I ever saw. His accuracy was remarkable over any distance and the weight and speed of the ball was always perfect. He was the master of the long, defence – splitting pass. Its been lost to the game in recent years, but I saw Ruud Gullitt playing at Chelsea the other day and he hit a couple of 40 yarders to feet that had men of my age remembering Johnny.
“When people ask me about him, I tell them he was a perfectionist and sometimes he achieved perfection. Not many of of us can say that.” said Bobby Keetch.
He might have lacked ambition. Otherwise why stay at Fulham? The nearest he came to leaving was when John White, the greatly gifted Spurs inside-forward was tragically killed. Spurs offered £100,000 for him. Today they would need five million or more. He was tempted. He thought Jimmy Greaves with his intelligence and predatory instinct in the box, would have been a perfect partner. Fulham would not part with him.
The news that the club had blocked the transfer was too much for one reader of this newspaper who wrote to the editor. This strikes a deadly blow at our trade union rights and liberties. We might as well have let Hitler come over here with his jackboots and trample all over our cherished and hard one liberties.“ Had Johnny Haynes played today he would have been a millionaire. As it was he found financial security by going into partnership with a bookmaker called Tommy Benfield. They sold their betting shops to the tote, and Haynes had a safety net against the moment the tumult faded.
He played 56 times for England. 22 as captain. It would have been more but for a damaged knee caused by a car crash when he was 27. He says he played for seven years on one leg. The argument goes that he might have had an even more illustrious career, become a better player, had he gone to a bigger more wealthier club. Haynes points out that when the Fulham team included Gil Langley, George Cohen, Bobby Robson, Alan Mullery, Eddie Lowe, Archie Macauley, Bedford Jezzard, Rodney Marsh, Graham Leggatt, Allan Clarke and Roy Bentley he would claim to be in the best of company. What kept it interesting was the presence of characters like Maurice Cook, Jimmy Hill, Tosh and Bobby Keetch.
In the First Division days of the Sixties Fulham averaged gates of 40000. In 1961 Jimmy Hill, the man who gave professional footballers a clear and persuasive voice as well as a new deal, drove through the restrictions imposed by the maximum wage.
Tommy Trinder, who once joked that Johnny Haynes was worth £100 a week was made to put his money where his mouth was. There were those who predicted it was the beginning of the end. Haynes smiles at the memory. “I’d love to play in today’s game. I think I would find a lot of space to put my foot on the ball and pass it around. I think I might enjoy working with the modern ball. It’s difficult to explain to players just how heavy and brutal the old ball was.”
“Once we played on a mud heap at Port Vale. and even Tosh, who could kick a wall down, couldn’t move the ball more than 10 or 12 yards. Roy Bentley, who played centre forward and centre half for us, had a forehead covered in scar tissue” he said.
He did not fancy management. He took over on a temporary basis when Fulham sacked Bobby Robson as the team went from the First to Third Division in three seasons. “Didn’t like it. I valued my health too much. I saw what it did to other people.” he said. One day when Vic Buckingham was in charge Haynes watched him try to teach Bobby Keetch to become a better player.
Buckingham took Keetch onto the training ground and started tap dancing. At the end of a five minute routine borrowed from Fred Astaire, Buckingham said to a puzzled Bobby Keetch. “That’s what I want you to do. Learn that routine. It’ll do wonders for your balance.“ F*** off said Bobby Keetch and earned himself a free transfer.
We laughed a lot that day in Edinburgh. Why not?. We were remembering good days when football won a smile. Anyone who went to Craven Cottage when Johnny Haynes was king will tell you the same. It was not a golden age or anything like that – although its been a while since we produced a Haynes, a Charlton or a Bobby Moore – but it was a pleasant, well mannered, good natured time, to be involved with the game.
There was nowhere else we would rather be on a Saturday than watching football at Craven Cottage. I asked Johnny Haynes what he remembered when he looked back. “I recall that once we scored 100 goals and didn’t come top. We couldn’t work it out until someone pointed out we’d let in 100 goals as well. It was great fun wasn’t it?” he said.