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Book Review - Johnny Haynes - Portrait of a Football Genius

Thursday 18th January 2018

Think English football in the 1960’s and you think 1966. The World Cup winning team, that even now over fifty years later, is still ingrained in the minds of every England fan. We can recite the names of the eleven that were to become immortal on that glorious summer’s day. However, one man was missing. The most famous of them all, the greatest player of his generation.

This is the story of Johnny Haynes.

Title: Johnny Haynes – Portrait of a Football Genius

Author: James Gardner

Publisher: Pitch Publishing

Date Published: 2017

Price: £18.99

Johnny Haynes was a football genius, he had flair, technique, a presence, an aura. He was the greatest player of his time, world class. The complete midfielder. Not my words or that of author James Gardner but those of his fellow professionals. Players of the likes of Bobby Moore, Billy Wright, Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Charlton. Johnny Haynes was the hero’s hero. 

Haynes is perhaps best associated with the lifting of the maximum wage, a topic that is a key part of footballing history and given due coverage in ‘Portrait of a Football Genius’. But there is much more to him than his £100 a week pay rise.

Gardner talks in depth about his rapid progression and his starring roles with Fulham and England. In covering Johnny’s career he provides a fascinating insight into football and the life of a footballer in the post-war years as well as coverage of England’s 1958 and 1962 world cups. Both starring Johnny Haynes and both largely unreported being in the shadow of 66.

The book also delves into the swinging 60’s with Fulham and in particular Haynes at the forefront of the celebrity revolution. The glamour, fame and celebrity culture. Haynes was the poster boy, the golden boy and one player that the rich and famous were desperate to be associated with. He was the most famous sportsman in Britain with the world at his feet.

With Haynes reputation as the best of the best, Gardner’s ‘Portrait of a Football Genius’ examines why he disappeared from the England team and why it was Moore and not him collecting the Jules Rimet from the Queen in 1966. He looks at his loyalty to Fulham and his fall into obscurity. And why he was never officially honoured while players that idolised him were.

The last few chapters are particularly poignant. They cover his time in South Africa and retirement in Edinburgh. With contributions from teammates, close friends and families here we really get to know Johnny Haynes the person. His character and traits. It is fascinating to see this side of a football genius and adds real depth alongside his footballing achievements. 

The biography is written in chronological order following the ups and downs of a superstar. Each chapter ends with a ‘cliff-hanger’ that makes you want to start the following one to find out what happens. The result an addictive read that is hard to put down.

If ever there was a player that was bigger than the club, then Haynes is it. Fulham is author’s James Gardner’s club and he himself was touched by the magic of Haynes. It gives the book credibility and a passion in the writing.

Johnny Haynes was a complex character but in many ways a simple man. He was untouched at the time for his pure footballing quality, his fame and his reputation. Teammates, opponents, fan’s they all adored him.

The world’s best players thought he was the best and Johnny Haynes – Portrait of a Footballing Genius’ provides a fitting legacy to this iconic player.

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Allan Kemp

Born in Suffolk but a Norwich City supporter who is currently trying to swap a career in finance with one in football writing. I am an FA level 2 coach and also a published author, my book of Hall of fame - Norwich City's - All-Time Greats is available from all good bookshops. I currently have a weekly column on Norwich City website - 'My Football Writer' as well as writing book reviews on 'Its Round and Its White'.

Total articles: 55

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