Johnny Haynes

Wednesday 21 November 2001

Threatened with the strike that would bring football to a standstill, the club chairmen raged against such insolent insurrection. 'This money madness will mean the end of the game,' they fumed.

But this time the players were adamant. To a man, at union meetings up and down the country, they voted to leave their boots at home.

The bosses were beaten. They capitulated to the unthinkable. The day of liberation was January 18, 1961 and henceforth a footballer was able to earn more than £20 a week. Some visualised a rise to 30, even 40 quid a week. Yet one player fared rather better than that.

The chairman of Fulham, Tommy Trinder, a famous comedian, was not averse to a little personal publicity. He certainly got it. As rival chairmen blanched at the outrageousness of it, blazing headlines announced that Trinder was to pay Johnny Haynes £100 a week.

It is difficult to convey to a younger generation just how glittering a talent Haynes was. He could strike a 50-yard pass on to the toecaps of a fleeting winger with inhuman accuracy. He could hit goals from near-impossible angles from 30 yards. He frequently captained an unfashionable team to improbable victories.

He was the David Beckham, and even more, of his day and had he been born two generations later he would now be earning £100,000 a week and priced on the transfer market at £60million, with huge personal endorsements adding to his fortune each time he changed clubs.

Johnny Haynes never changed clubs. He left Edmonton Latymer School aged 15 and spent two years as an apprentice cleaning boots and polishing the boardroom table, before playing 657 games for Fulham between 1952 and 1970, including two FA Cup semi-finals. As a hobby he played 56 times for England, 22 of them as captain.

Fulham was the boiler room of that 1960-61 players' revolution. It was not Haynes but the articulate and persuasive players' union leader Jimmy Hill who relentlessly led what was virtually a peasants' uprising against the landowners. Haynes, like every player since, was the beneficiary of a Hill campaign which has never fully received the recognition it deserves.

Actually, Haynes was already better off than most footballers. He had succeeded Denis Compton as a Brylcreem-boy pin-up with his glossy hairstyle adorning newspapers, the flanks of buses and the London Underground.

'Amazing!' he recalled. 'I was getting £1,000 a year playing for Fulham and £1,500 for doing a three-day photo shoot for Brylcreem. I also had a promotional contract with the Milk Marketing Board. I was pretty rich. For God's sake, I had a decent car!'

The 1961 day when Fulham called their players, one by one, into the boardroom to hear the terms of their newly-liberated contracts should have been filmed for sheer comedy.

Haynes was first in and the chairman was as good as his word. He emerged as England's first £100-a-week player and gave his waiting colleagues the thumbs-up.

Among those who followed was centre forward Maurice Cook, who was told that his off-season summer wage would be £15 a week.

Cook protested about the disparity between this miserly sum and what Haynes was receiving. 'But Haynes is a far better player than you are,' Cook was told.

'Not in the f****** summer, he's not,' Cook retorted.

Alan Mullery, too, glanced at his new contract, saw that his salary was far lower than Haynes', and threw it down. It came whizzing back along the shining boardroom table with the words: 'If you don't like it you can f** off!'

Mullery, outgunned, laughed and stayed.

There was an awful lot of industrial football language, and some drinking, at Fulham in those days. There were no formal post-match press conferences, but reporters rarely left the famous Cottage before eight o'clock on a Saturday evening, always with a good story but sometimes with only a hazy recollection of the match result.

Fulham was, and remains, the friendliest of family football clubs.

It is now under the benevolent dictatorship of one Al Fayed, who apparently owns a corner shop in London. I was astonished to learn that this controversial figure subsidises all rail fares above £10 for every Fulham supporter travelling to away matches. I expect this revelation will alarm rival cub chairmen as much as did Trinder's extravagant decision to pay Johnny Haynes £100 a week four decades ago.

Haynes, now 67 and living in Prince's Street in Edinburgh, came down to London last Saturday to watch Fulham beat Newcastle 3-1. He sat next to Al-Fayed, who remains under the impression that his name is Hayes.

When is career with Fulham finally ended, Haynes went to South Africa to play and coach Durban City.

So what has he been doing and living off these past 15 years in Scotland? He's been watching Hearts play football, but these days, is more into rugby.

'I've been lucky,' he said. 'I married this terrifically ambitious woman who runs a couple of businesses, including office cleaning. Sometimes I'm up at 4am to help out.'

'John, you never do!' retorted the vivacious Avril.

'Sometimes,' replied her husband - who today could have been one of the wealthiest sportsmen in the world - 'you don't know what I'm up to.'

Multi-millionaire David Beckham is unlikely to find himself up before dawn and hovering office carpets when he quits football, but Haynes bears him no ill will. 'Good luck to him,' said the man whose genius and salary unwittingly opened the floodgates that have led to today's threatened second football strike.