Farewell Johnny, Gentleman Giant of a Game Long Gone

Article excerpt


WHEN Gentleman Johnny Haynes died last night, one of the last links to a lost age of elegance in football died with him.

The timing of his passing from life was especially poignant, coming as it did in the hours after Monday's celebration of his 71st birthday.

It is as if he were the last to leave the room at the end of a stately banquet, turning to look fondly upon the scene before quietly switching off the light. It is unlikely that the game he graced will be illuminated by his like again.

In everything he did - from his caressing of a football to the Brylcreeming of his fine head of hair -Haynes sought perfection. He did so from the day in 1952 when he played the first of 594 League matches for Fulham until the end.

When we last took wine together, this summer, he was as slim, handsome, charming and modest as always. That was on the evening in London when he was enshrined among the first draft of global sporting legends by Nobok.

Thank goodness - unlike the custodians of our national protocol whom some of us had been badgering to confer a royal decoration upon England's most regal footballer - they did not delay.

Sir Bobby Robson, with his insistent nomination of the genius with whom he played, made sure of that.

Here, at last, was wider recognition long overdue.

Everything about Haynes was sheer class and the lack of confirmation by those initial letters after his name represents a failure of the honours system. Not that he minded for himself. He had been exercised far more by the omission of a knighthood for Bobby Moore, who became a cherished friend.

Loyalty was the watchword for Haynes, the one-club man who put Fulham above personal ambitions.

The Italians came calling. Tottenham, in their rich and fashionable heyday, virtually kicked down his door. But he spent all his 18 winters in English football with Fulham.

His reward, when the iniquity of the maximum wage ended, was to become the first [pounds sterling]100a-week footballer. His worth, if he were playing today, is beyond calculation.

How much would Roman Abramovich pay for an incomparable commander of the midfield; one who could land a 45-yard pass on a sixpence and score vital goals with an imperial flourish; one who captained club and country in a manner so superior that he defied any member of his team to give anything less than his absolute best?

Without the presence of Haynes, Fulham could never have survived so many seasons in the topmost division of the English League.

Without the majesty of Haynes, England would have been the poorer throughout the eight years, 56 caps and 18 goals which followed his international debut in 1954.

Without Haynes as captain and scorer of two goals, England would not have sealed the winning of the 1961 Home Championship by a record 9-3 defeat on Scotland.

Without the Haynes example England might not have won the World Cup in 1966, his own part in which he was so cruelly denied.

His last game for England came in the 1962 World Cup in Chile by way of defeat by a great Brazilian team.

Later that year he sustained leg injuries in a car crash from which, although he was able to play on with Fulham for eight more years, he never quite recovered.

When Alf Ramsey, with a heavy heart, informed him that he was that crucial fraction short of fitness for the highest level, Haynes accepted without demur.

He had left his legacy to England in the person of his eventual successor as captain.

Haynes had steered Bobby Moore through the 1962 World Cup and in so doing had impressed on his prodigy's mind the demeanour and composure which England then expected of its skipper. …