Johnny's Story

Sunday 23 August 2015 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 Eleven – England, Their England (cont.)

In all these practices and in the work we do immediately before an England match there has been no theory. The work has been practical. We have tried to work out movements and systems on the field, in actual match play and in no other way. Walter Winterbottom has directed all of them and I feel compelled to record here my great respect for him as a team manager and as a man. In my experience he is practical, knowledgeable, sympathetic, enthusiastic. I never could understand all the accusations fired at him for being a theorist. If that applies to his other coaching work I would not know about it but it certainly does not apply with the England team. In these practice matches we try out capers like free-kicks and passing movements. At half-time Walter will say what he thinks; if the wing-halfs are coming too far upfield, if wingers are hanging back or not hanging back enough, if full-backs are not swivelling quickly enough and so on. I have always felt that Walter Winterbottom talks sense about the game. One of his great assets is in summing up the opposition and reading their game. He does this very accurately and sensibly. He is very knowledgeable about players’ strengths and weaknesses and what they can and cannot do in a match. He never blames or attacks a player without a very good reason, and he is not vindictive after a match, even if we have lost in a disappointing way. He has never sought to change my game, for instance, although there was a time when he thought I was playing a little too deep and defensively and he said so, quietly, making some good suggestions. When we played the Brazilians at Wembley he gave me a lot of good advice on how not to fly into an early tackle with them, but to edge them off and keep between the man with the ball and my own goal.

I would say that Winterbottom the man is even better than Winterbottom the manager. I cannot imagine that any other man in our country, or even in the world, in football, could have stood up to the public pressures that Winterbottom has been exposed to over the past ten years. They have included what you could call failure in the World Cup Final competitions, two tours to South America in which the results were none too good, defeats at home by Hungary and Sweden, seven goals lost in Budapest, five in Belgrade. The controversy that has howled around his head has been appalling, yet he has never hit back, has never been able to hit back, and somehow he has retained his faith in the game and the people in the game. To me it is unbelievable. With my temperament I certainly could never have taken all this. One of his great disappointments must have been when the Russians dumped us out of the World Cup in Sweden, yet he behaved like a king that day. If he has ever lost his temper, it has never been with players, or over performances. He has always slaved for the players. He has always seen to it that we get the very best of gear, the best of conditions in which to work, the best travel, the best hotels and the best treatment, especially abroad.

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