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Johnny Haynes, who died this week aged 71, was captain of England at a time when the country was only just becoming aware of the international realities of the game. He was there in time to capitalise on a new approach to football’s finances, but just too early to share in its glory.

The decade of the 1950s was a brooding time, with England still resentful at the world imposing itself on the national game. The international squad had travelled to the World Cups of 1954 in Switzerland and 1958 in Sweden, but was yet quite to believe that the real world championship wasn’t the annual fixture between England and Scotland. The 1962 World Cup in Chile, when Haynes was captain, was the first it took seriously, but its players got sick or otherwise failed to adapt to the exotic conditions and came back with nothing.

Haynes had only recently achieved his famed position as the first £100-a-week footballer, though never quite fitted into the plans of England coach Alf Ramsey as he prepared for the 1966 World Cup to be staged in England. In his early thirties as the hosts triumphed under the captaincy of Bobby Moore, Haynes was possibly passed his best but maybe also too much his own man for Ramsey’s liking.

At Fulham he had acquired this sense of himself. He was a big fish in a small pond and ran things on the pitch. Jimmy Hill would later point out that it was he who did all Haynes’ running for him. Haynes would often stand still, shrug, moan and become visibly fed up when things didn’t go his way.

His England teammates protested that this wasn’t a true reflection of what he was like, but from Ramsey’s perspective he was not the archetypal team man - the quiet and gentle spirit, say, of Bobby Charlton, who became the fulcrum of experience in England’s World Cup winning team.

Last year - you get these honours as a journalist sometimes - I spoke to George Cohen, the right back and Fulham’s one representative in that World Cup squad. He said that, from his career with the club and in an England shirt, there was never anyone who was such a master of the ball as Haynes.

It was often said that in the 1950s and 60s you went to watch Haynes not Fulham. Personally, I went to watch the club’s goalkeeper, Tony Macedo, the “Rock of Gibraltar”, who introduced a dash of continental flair into English goalkeeping. As fast as Haynes was creating chances up front, however, the inconsistent Macedo was presenting them to the opposition at the back.

A case in point was the FA Cup semi-final of 1958 when Fulham held Manchester United to a 2-2 draw at Highbury, thanks to a performance of elastic magnificence by Macedo. In the replay a few days later, also at Highbury, Macedo neglected to wear gloves on a wet day and put in a miserable performance as Fulham were beaten. I hate to think what Haynes said to him, or felt towards him in the dressing room afterwards. That FA Cup campaign was the nearest Haynes came to a senior medal.

He could turn and twist a game to his team’s advantage with a few moments of brilliance. One Good Friday in the early 1960s I went to watch Fulham play host to Arsenal, who quickly went 2-0 up. This was not a good Arsenal side but that day they were on form and the home crowd, politely appreciative of good football, applauded the guests. Haynes transformed the game in the last three minutes, making Fulham’s first goal and scoring the equaliser himself in the dying seconds. His celebrations were a kind of restrained jump for joy, obviously happy but not quite letting go.

It was this feature of character, perhaps, that saw him handle his sudden elevation from a wage of £20 to £100 a week in 1961 with calm and composure. His teammate Hill, as the footballers’ union representative, was instrumental in getting the official cap on wages removed, but it was ironic that such a small club as Fulham should be the first to hit the hundred pound figure. Club chairman Tommy Trinder, comedian and compere of television’s weekly Sunday Night at the London Palladium, reckoned he had to pay Haynes the money lest a bigger club sign him for his box office potential.

In his company - and I can only speak from the position of an autograph hunter in his early teens - you were aware of being in the presence of footballing greatness. Other Fulham players of the day - Hill, Macedo, Bobby Robson, Alan Mullery, Tosh Chamberlain et al - would emerge from Craven Cottage at the end of a morning’s training and cheerily wade through the demands for autographs by the crowd milling around them. Haynes would impose an immediate sense of order, never anything but courteously, though he would make us stand in line.

He would then count the line, comprised, say, of 21 boys. Then he would sign, counting as he did so. When he reached 21, that would mean everyone had had one signature each (in Haynes’s case we all had far more magazine and newspaper pictures that we needed signing). Anyone who had come to the queue late, after Haynes had done his initial count, was left to argue their case with the England captain. He was never unreasonable, always fair, but he was difficult to warm to.

Along with Spurs’ captain Danny Blanchflower, Haynes was in the first wave of footballers to become a celebrity of TV advertising. Blanchflower advertised Shredded Wheat, Haynes promoted Brylcreem, but which soon, in the dry-haired mid-Sixties and onwards, took a nosedive in popularity.

With his skill as a footballer and his presence, it’s impossible to imagine what he would earn today. Johnny Haynes earned £100 a week, the likes of Rio Ferdinand get £100,000. Is Ferdinand worth one thousand times more, or one thousand times more in demand? Does this tell us anything about “free market” forces as a code to live by?

Johnny Haynes’s career was never quite as fulfilled as it should have been. He was a marvellous player, he was Fulham and for a time he was England. But just a year or so younger, and he might have been both rich and in Ramsey’s team.

peter.chapman@ft.com

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