Johnny's Story

Sunday 31 August 2014 09:00

In 1962, Fulham’s most famous son penned his footballing story so far. It’s All In The Game sees Johnny Haynes regale readers with tales from his career, told at the height of his fame as England captain, and each week on we’ll be serialising his words. This is Johnny’s Story.

Chapter Two – In The Beginning

I was born on the 17 October, 1934, in Kentish Town, London, and have lived happily ever since. My father was born in Walworth, my mother in St John’s Wood. I am a Londoner through and through. London is my town and it always will be. I have seen a few cities and a few countries but London is the place for me. Seven years ago, when Bobby Robson, Bedford Jezzard and myself were dubbed the ‘£60,000 trio’, the newspapers told the tale of how Fulham were going to sell us to Newcastle United. In 1959, and again in 1961, there was a hue and cry in the newspapers again, warning the English football world of an Italian invasion in which the best players would be carried off to Rome, Milan and Turin with cheques of £75,000 and £100,000 left littered across England like scrap paper. I was one of the players on top of the wanted list. Nobody asked me what I thought of these propositions, but if they had I would have surprised them by saying no thank you each time. I cannot think of one good reason why I should leave my family and friends, the Fulham club and London town, where I am perfectly happy to go anywhere else in the world, just to make money. Money? I reckon I can make just as much in London as I can anywhere if only I use my wits and intelligence to the limit.

Families like to tell stories of how their little Johnny sang a song at the age of six months, or fell off his bicycle on his first birthday. We all conjure up remarkable things which happened to us in our earliest days but to recapture them is immensely difficult and most of them remain lost in the fog of memory. My first clear recollections are of the war and of my father being in the Army. He had been a shoe-tree manufacturer before the war, but he went into the Ordnance Corps and was stationed for a time at Bicester. For the last two years of the war he was in Burma. 

So my earliest memories are of war, bombing and air-raid warnings, of nights spent in the shelters, of rationing – and of football. I simply cannot remember a time when I was not playing football. At that time, I always seemed able to get into the Under-11 eleven, if you know what I mean, although I was something of a midget, and I was pretty good by all accounts even then. That was at Houndsfield Road School, Edmonton, where we were living and there were regular matches and fixtures on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This was my first experience of organised competitive football and I do not think I have lived without it since. The rest of the time was taken up in the local park playing football. There we had scratch matches with me playing against men – well, they seemed like men to me although they were probably only fourteen or fifteen years old, but I used to muck in with them. I was knocked about plenty and there would often be fights. Not that I was throwing many punches. I took good care to have a friend who had a big brother. My chum was Reggie Francis who lived next door, and we played together right through most of the school teams into our teens. Reggie still lives in Edmonton, still enjoys his game – Sunday football for him now – and is a very clever ball player. His elder brother Ken was my champion. When Haynes was in trouble, Ken coped with all the rough stuff on my behalf when he was playing on my side. When he was on the other side, little Johnny Haynes just had to take his chances and hope for the best.

Edmonton did not have too much bombing, but there were air-raid warnings galore and we would have to spend many nights in the shelters. My mother worked in a factory during the war, and what with that and my father being in the Army, they probably decided that I was better out of London. My father had some friends in Droylsden, Manchester, who had a boy of about my own age and I was packed off there. On reflection, it was rather an odd place to which to evacuate me. Manchester was just as likely to be bombed as Edmonton. 

My father’s friends were extremely kind to me but I had few chances to play football. The family was Catholic, as I am myself, but they practised much more strictly than we did. I was sent to a Catholic school, sent to church every day, had to serve Mass at the alter and so on. These were habits of the family so I had to comply and I was hardly old enough to protest, in any case, much as I would have liked to. There was a local football team of course, as there is everywhere, but there was no junior side and therefore no football for me. I must have reckoned this was really a hard war for I lasted only six months there, and then defeated the whole object of the exercise by getting back to London just as the flying bombs, the ‘doodle-bugs’ started arriving. I found that the pressure had been put on my mother to get me back to Edmonton. It seemed that the old school team had not done so well without me. There had been a regular campaign going on, with deputations from the school calling to ask her when I would be back, and saying that the old place was not quite the same without me. This was my first, but not my last, experience of the pressure group. 

Be sure to return to next week, when Johnny discusses the sacrifices made by his parents as he pursued a career in football.

It's All In The Game was published by Arthur Baker Limited.

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