There is little to be said about Johnny Haynes that hasn’t already been read or heard by Fulham fans; in fact, they are the primary group responsible for waxing so lyrically about the man they call the Maestro.
Having been thrust into the public eye following his dazzling performance for England schoolboys in a live televised match, Haynes rebuffed the advances of North London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to sign for the Whites in July 1950 - three months prior to his 16th birthday. Six years, 143 appearances, 47 goals and eight England caps later, he was made Fulham Captain.
Haynes had skippered the side previously, in the absence of Jimmy Hill for the final two matches of the 1955/56 campaign, when he was instrumental in 4-0 and 4-3 victories at Craven Cottage over Doncaster Rovers and Nottingham Forest, respectively. His influence and leadership - despite his tender age (21) - were clearly sufficient to convince Manager Dugald Livingstone that he was worthy of captaining a Fulham side desperate to fulfil ambitions of winning promotion from Division Two.
His reign as skipper did not begin prosperously, however, with the Whites suffering defeat in each of their four opening games of 1956/57 - although our chances were hindered somewhat with Haynes missing for two of those after being clattered throughout our inaugural match of the campaign at home to West Ham United. He had picked up an ankle injury which would plague him irregularly throughout the season - a niggle not helped by unscrupulous opposition defenders targeting his weak spot. Despite this knock, Haynes still racked up 40 appearances for Club and country, but a number of injuries to other players prohibited Fulham from finishing any higher than 11th in the league.
The following campaign was much improved, with Haynes enjoying a summer of rest before captaining his side to a fifth-place finish, in addition to an FA Cup Semi-Final. It was a season tarnished with tragedy though, when a number of Manchester United players were killed in the Munich air disaster in February 1958. Understandably, Haynes was distraught at the horrific accident, with his England teammates Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor and Roger Byrne among those who died as a result of the crash.
As fate transpired, it was United - less than two months on from the disaster - who knocked Haynes and Fulham out of the FA Cup. The Semi-Final was played at Villa Park in front of almost 70,000 spectators on 22nd March, with Haynes excelling in a 2-2 draw. In the days before extra-time and penalties, a Replay was required and Fulham were back in London four days later to face United again, this time at Arsenal’s Highbury. Haynes was again pulling the strings and thought he’d grabbed an equaliser with Fulham trailing 4-3 as the 90th minute approached, as he controlled the ball on his chest before slamming it into the back of the net. Instead, the referee ruled he had handled it. It was an incorrect decision from the official and it proved costly as Bobby Charlton took advantage of Fulham’s incredulous disbelief to break away up the other end and score the decisive goal that took United to Wembley.
By the late 1950s, Haynes was unquestionably the face of Fulham - but the Club was not the only business that he found himself representing, as he quickly became the David Beckham of his time. His status as skipper at Craven Cottage and his importance to the England team - he played every game at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden - meant he was a marketing department’s dream. A handsome face no doubt played its part too, mind. The most lucrative of the advertising deals he landed was to become ‘the Brylcreem Boy,’ with Haynes’ face plastered over billboards, buses, newspapers, as well as on London Underground posters and in television commercials. “Frankly, it embarrassed me,” the Maestro said of his rocketing fame. “I didn’t own a car so travelling around by Underground and bus I was always seeing those pictures of myself. I got plenty of stick from my fellow players, as you can imagine, but yes, my bank manager and me, we laughed all the way.” Owing to the maximum wage law still taking effect, Haynes earned 50 per cent more than his annual salary for three days’ work with the hair product company.
The side projects never distracted Haynes from his primary business, though, as he regularly turned down offers to ensure he kept his priorities intact. After returning from the World Cup, he led Fulham to the top flight under the stewardship of new Manager and former teammate Bedford Jezzard, grabbing 26 goals in 34 league matches as the Whites finished second in the division. Haynes grabbed three hat-tricks that season, in addition to a four-goal haul in a 4-2 victory over Lincoln City.
Finally, the 24-year-old had the chance to test himself against the best the country had to offer - indeed, he grabbed a brace in the first home game of the season as Fulham saw off Manchester City in a thrilling 5-2 encounter in South-West London. He ended the 1959/60 season - having missed all of September’s matches - with his goal tally once again in double figures as the Whites enjoyed a comfortable first campaign back in Division One. Following a 10th-place finish, Haynes was back on international duty, with a magnificent personal acknowledgement set to be bestowed upon him. After impressing in a 3-3 draw with Yugoslavia - a performance which culminated in Haynes grabbing a late equaliser - England manager Walter Winterbottom informed him that he was set to take over the captaincy.
It was a moment of unequivocal pride for Fulham’s golden boy, and he went on to lead his country out no less than 22 times. His finest moment skippering the nation came at Wembley on 15th April 1961, when a decent Scotland side were trounced 9-3. Haynes scored two goals and was involved in the majority of the others as the Scots failed to deal with his laser precision passing and imaginative movement. The victory saw Haynes presented with the British Championship trophy, while the nation’s media threw every compliment they could muster his way. It’s a day that Johnny savoured and relished long after his career had ended: “I, as captain, collected the trophy from the Queen,” he recalled. “Before I knew what was happening, the lads had me up in the air. We were all feeling nine feet tall anyway. You can’t ask for a better day than that. That’s the moment I live over and over again, the one which makes everything worthwhile. I can tell you there was none prouder than England’s captain that day.”
Little more than a year later, and having just led Fulham to another ultimately unsuccessful FA Cup Semi-Final, Haynes travelled to Chile as captain of England for the World Cup. The campaign got off to a nightmare start, though, as Hungary claimed a surprise 2-1 victory after marking Haynes out of the game, as their manager exclaimed: “The number 10 takes corners, number 10 takes the throw-ins, number 10 does everything; so what do we do? We put a man tightly on number 10 - goodbye England.” A victory over Argentina and draw with Bulgaria sent Haynes and company through to the knock-out stages, but eventual winners Brazil proved too strong and emerged with a 3-1 win.The England and Fulham skipper, along with manager Winterbottom, was made a scapegoat for the early exit upon their return, but Haynes insisted he did not let the criticism affect him. He was keen to represent England on home soil at the next World Cup, but fate would cruelly rob him of that chance when he was the passenger in a car accident in August 1962. With broken bones in both legs, a cruciate ligament injury to his right knee, and a hairline fracture above his right ankle, Haynes was informed by his orthopaedic specialist that his career was over. He did, of course, recover and play regularly again for Fulham, but was never recalled to the national team, despite pressure on new boss Alf Ramsey from the media to do so following a series of dazzling displays in Division One. It was a decision that he later agreed with: “Sir Alf never picked me and he was quite right. I wasn’t the same player after the accident. There was no way I could have played international football, although it took me a very long time to accept it.”
Despite missing the majority of the 1962/63 campaign because of those injuries, Haynes still racked up a further 276 appearances before calling time on his Fulham career - a remarkable feat considering the ominous prognosis he’d been given by his surgeon. However, his reign as Fulham Captain - which had lasted for the better part of a decade - came to an end ahead of the 1965/66 season when Manager Vic Buckingham elected to make George Cohen his new skipper.
“It wasn’t a problem for John,” Cohen recalled. “There was no resentment about it and he said, ‘Don’t feel badly about it, George.’ Mind you, I was probably captain in name only - you couldn’t be a captain to Johnny Haynes!” Injury later cut Cohen’s career short, with Haynes reinstated as Fulham’s leader - not that he’d ever really ceased leading the side. Following another spell where the role had been taken away from him - this time by Bobby Robson - Haynes found himself in a new, unfamiliar role, as he was appointed the Club’s Caretaker Manager; a position he insisted was temporary and that he was only doing to help out the Club.
One of his first tasks was to delegate the captaincy that he had held for so long, with Fred Callaghan the player he deemed most deserving of the accolade. But Haynes didn’t enjoy his stint as gaffer, and returned to purely playing duties after just four games in charge. He was made Captain once more, but relinquished it to Stan Horne ahead of the 1969/70 campaign - his 20th, and final, season at the Club.
Fans old enough to recall the character of Haynes often describe him to younger supporters as a Dimitar Berbatov-esque player: a brilliantly gifted perfectionist, who comes down hard on his teammates if they fail to deliver to a similar standard. Haynes was, by his own admittance, a vocal captain on the pitch, but he was only tough on his colleagues for the good of the team.
“I am a demanding skipper,” he admitted in 1962 - a time when he was leading the line for Fulham and England. “I ask a lot from players at country and at club level. But I make no apologies for this, because I demand a lot from myself and however I am judged in my role as captain and player, I would not wish that judgement to be anything but the highest measure. So, if I find my teammates failing in that respect then it is up to me to try and set it right. That is the yardstick of my own performances when they don’t come up to scratch.”
It doesn’t seem right that a player of Haynes’ ability ended his career without a major honour to his name. But his legacy lives on at Craven Cottage, with his own stand - and an accompanying statue to boot - ensuring that Fulham fans, for generations to come, all appreciate the work of our greatest-ever player and captain.