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Johnny Haynes Portrait of a Football Genius By James Gardner

Release date: 11th August, 2017
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

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On the eve of the new football season, Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle referred to the importance of getting youngsters supporting their local team. “We need to have them by the age of seven,” said Mr Hoyle, whose club is doing everything it can to ensure a steady flow of supporters are backing the Terriers for years to come.

James Gardner was taken to his first Fulham game at the age of seven and fell in love. That love has clearly deepened over the intervening half century as this first full-length biography of a man who was not only an outstanding footballer but the first Englishman to earn ÂŁ100 a week shows.

The author is right to claim that Johnny Haynes never received the credit he deserved. This was partly due to the fact that despite being an established international, he remained a one-club man and, with all due respect, that club was Fulham who were never likely to challenge the burgeoning hegemony of England’s footballing giants based almost exclusively in the north west. Nevertheless, Gardner’s claim that footballers in the fifties and sixties “…were working under conditions not dissimilar to those suffered by medieval serfs” is well wide of the mark.

Haynes in particular did well from the game. He was perhaps English football’s first celebrity, securing lucrative contracts with Brylcreem and the Milk Marketing Board, amongst others, while his image was prominent on billboards across the country.

He was also a ground-breaker, holding Fulham chairman Tommy Trinder to his promise to pay him £100 a week three days after professional footballers voted 694 to 18 to take strike action unless the maximum wage was abolished. By January 1961, Haynes’ salary was more than six times the national average, a trend that has since accelerated to eye-watering levels.

Gardner has included plenty of showbiz anecdotes, including a particularly amusing incident featuring Rex Harrison, but as Haynes reached the end of his career, Fulham were losing ground, although they would later attract the likes of Bobby Moore, George Best and Rodney Marsh to Craven Cottage.

In later life, little was heard of Haynes and there’s a poignant moment when he delivers some dry cleaning belonging to former England man Trevor Steven who recognises him. There are various accounts of the pair’s conversation.

It’s highly unlikely that a current England international with 50-odd caps will end his working life delivering dry cleaning; Johnny Haynes may not have expected it either, but he could still captivate 7-year-olds. Let’s hope Mr Hoyle has players capable of doing the same.

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