Johnny Haynes: Fulham's big headed pass master

“What are you effing up to?”

That was how England and Fulham maestro Johnny Haynes often rebuked team-mates who had just screwed up. Sometimes, he wouldn’t say anything, just stand, hands on hips, in an accusatory manner.

Sometimes, a legend’s impatience and imperfection are more telling than all the misty-eyed, nostalgic tributes. Haynes’ perfectionism once earned his best mate and Fulham room-mate Tosh Chamberlain a booking for calling him an “effing bighead.”

“What are you effing up to?”

Asked by Michael Parkinson what he remembered most about his career, Haynes replied: “One season we scored 100 goals and didn’t come top. We couldn’t work it out until someone pointed out we had conceded 100 goals.”

Haynes was the England captain between Billy Wright and Bobby Moore but, outside west London, is less famous than either. The statue unveiled outside Fulham’s Johnny Haynes stand last weekend should signal the long overdue re-evaluation of a player Pele called the greatest passer of the ball he had ever seen.

Reverse passes, cross passes, 40-yard passes, passes into space he couldn’t see to a team-mate who, he intuitively knew, should be running on to receive it – these were all in Haynes’ repertoire.

George Cohen, Fulham’s World Cup winning full-back, remembers one moment of genius at an otherwise forgotten charity match: “The ball came to him at speed on a wet, slippery surface but with the slightest of adjustments, one that was almost imperceptible, he played it inside a full-back and into the path of an on-running winger.

I looked at our coach Dave Sexton on the bench and he shook his head as if to say 'fantastic.' Haynes could give you goose bumps on a wet night in a match that didn't matter.”

An Arsenal fan as a boy in Edmonton, growing up on Spurs’ doorstep, Haynes joined Fulham after a sensational performance for England Schoolboys either because his best mate, Chamberlain, was on the Cottagers’ books or because big clubs thought he was too slight to make it.

Either way, he blossomed at Fulham. Like Totti at Roma, Haynes never seemed tempted by offers from big clubs (Spurs, Milan and Roma assiduously sought his signature). In 18 years at Fulham, he made 658 appearances and scored 158 goals, leading them out of the old Division Two in 1958. In 1958/59, he scored 26 goals in 34 games, a prolific goalscoring midfielder before Bobby Charlton and Frank Lampard reached their peak.

Wallop! Lincoln City on the receiving end in 1958  

If there is a blot on his reputation, it is his performances for England in two World Cups.

In 1958, he played through the pain in Sweden with blistered feet as England disappointed. In 1962, England lost their opener against Hungary because the Hungarians, noting that England had no Plan B, marked Haynes out of the game. In the quarter-final, Garrincha’s brilliance undid England, who lost 3-1.

That would prove to be his last international. A car crash two months later damaged his cruciate knee ligaments and, out for a year, he didn’t fully recover as a player, never showing the form that would force Sir Alf Ramsey to recall him.

Losing in the quarter-final to Brazil was a respectable exit but, for once, England had realistically expected so much more. In 1960/61, with Haynes as skipper, England’s record was P9, W7, D1, L1, F45, A14. The most famous result in that run was the 9-3 demolition of Scotland (in which Haynes scored his last two goals for his country) but a 3-2 victory over Italy in Rome in May 1961 was probably more significant for a side that aspired to win the World Cup.

But it never happened for Haynes. Instead, his admirers must dwell on the day, in October 1958, when he exorcised his frustration at being knocked out of the World Cup by the USSR by scoring a hat-trick against them as England won 5-0.

"Have I really got to pose like this forever?!"

After gazing at sculptor Douglas Jennings’ fine statue, I watched Fulham take on Sunderland from the back of the Johnny Haynes stand. Neither the statue – nor the presence of several of Haynes’ illustrious team-mates (including Jimmy Hill, who did a Mr Universe pose to wind up the Sunderland fans at half-time), inspired Roy Hodgson’s black and white army.

Jimmy Bullard, who can pass in a fashion Haynes might approve of, had an off day. The maestro would probably have been more impressed by Kieran Richardson who struck two sublime free-kicks. The first hit the post three times but somehow never went in. The second soared into the net but was bizarrely disallowed because of some shenanigans in the wall.

As the final whistle sounded, there were a few disgruntled boos from the home fans. As Fulham retired to the dressing room, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they heard the ghost of Johnny Haynes grumbling: “What were you effing up to?”

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