This is not a piece extolling the footballing qualities of The Maestro. (That story of JohnnyHaynes Haynes – the first £100-a-week footballer, England captain and career-long Fulham player – is well publicised. The oldest stand in professional football is named after him, there are books written about him and there are no end of web-links about him, including his Wikipedia entry and my own Pinterest board.) This is, in fact, a small story about Johnny Haynes; an anecdote which occurred 20 years after he ‘hung up his boots’ and which speaks to Johnny Haynes ‘The Man’ rather than the Johnny Haynes ‘Footballing Supremo’.

I first saw Johnny Haynes as a 6 year old on Saturday 8th October 1955. My father and my Uncle Benny were keen football supporters and alternated between watching Chelsea and Fulham most Saturdays*. My first match had been to see Chelsea play out a 0-0 bore-draw versus Aston Villa, on September 17th. On October 8th, there were goals galore at The Cottage, with Fulham winning 5-0 and, even to my very youthful eyes, a young Johnny Haynes was clearly the team superstar. After the match, I announced that I would no longer bother with Chelsea, despite the fact that they were the League 1 champions and Fulham a league beneath them. My father and uncle shortly reached the same conclusion. In 1959 we became season-ticket holders – only 2 were necessary, in those days, as lifting a youngster over the turnstiles was par-for-the-course in those days. I remain a Fulham season ticket holder; now with my own son Sam. Which brings me onto the point of all this…..

On March 24th 1990 our first child was born: a boy, Sam. Incredibly – given, her apathy towards  The Beautiful Game – my wife acquiesced to his being given the middle name of Haynes. Shortly thereafter, I contacted Fulham Football Club asking them to forward a letter to Johnny Haynes, with a request for an autograph from himself for Sam. A few days later I received a letter from Johnny Haynes, thanking me for the ‘honour’ and enclosing a signed photo of himself, with the words: “Give Fulham a cheer for me when you’re older!”.  This I presumed would be the end of our correspondence but I (and Sam) were in for a surprise. On his birthday, Sam received a birthday card from Johnny Haynes. And this continued every year till Johnny Haynes’s untimely death in 2005.

I never did meet Johnny Haynes personally. I once attended an event where he was part of a panel of past England footballers and it was very apparent to all that he was a breed apart – quietly spoken and somewhat self-effacing.  I could have introduced myself to him on that occasion, but something held me back. It might have been embarrassment or fear of disappointment; but I think not. I believe I knew what sort of man, Johnny Haynes was and that no personal affirmation was required.


* This was not uncommon at those times, when entertainment was more limited and the pubs had closing time. They had arrived in London, as refugees from Austria in 1939. Their English was limited but they could ‘speak football’ and their interest in it was huge – especially, given that this was the era of the Austrian ‘Wunderteam’. (My uncle had also played for Hakoah, the Viennese Jewish football club.) Like many first-time visitors to this country, their first residence was in Earls Court and they went to see games at all the local grounds. Eventually they alighted on Fulham & Chelsea as their teams of choice.

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2 Responses to The Maestro and Me.

  1. kurti says:

    Thank you so much for the history of Johnny It reminds me of the good old days when I could play in the RAF and he coached the kids. Hope you are all well and healthy

  2. Johnny was indeed a gentleman. I was disappointed to read an article in the latest fanzine from a person who said Johnny ignored schoolchildren waiting for his autograph outside the ground on training days. I was a regular there 1958 to 59 and Johnny never ignored the autograph hunters. He might not sign everyone’s book but he always signed some! Maureen Grimwood

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