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On that day: Johnny Haynes, footballing pioneer

At a time when finance so dominates the agenda, the modern footballer's earning capacity is further bound to be a subject of discussion. Last weekend saw the booing of Ashley Cole defended as the common man speaking out against overpaid footballers losing all touch with the society from whence they came. To those who decry him - and they are legion - Cole's autobiographical whinge against an Arsenal offer of £55k a week as "taking the piss" is the ultimate personification of the pampered footballer being detached from those who follow his sport.

Cole, a working class lad in his mid-20s, was talking about the kind of money that very few fans could ever dream of. Now at Chelsea, Cole undoubtedly earns more than that amount he found so enraging.

The moment when the British top division footballer's earning power headed up a sliproad unreachable to the common fan can be traced back to 1961 when the maximum wage of £20 a week was abolished after the successful lobbying of former player Jimmy Hill, then head of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

The most high profile of beneficiaries from this ending of footballing near-serfdom was England captain Johnny Haynes, who, as he did throughout his career, plied his trade at Fulham. Hill had latterly been a team-mate at Craven Cottage. Haynes' £100-a-week wage hit the headlines and he became the first man to own the both envied and reviled label of being the best-paid footballer in the country.

Friday October 17 will mark the anniversary of Haynes' birth, in London's Kentish Town in 1934. Sadly, the following day - Saturday 18 - will mark the third anniversary of his death after injuries sustained in a car accident.

Back in 1961, Haynes was regarded as the premier inside-forward in the country, perhaps Europe, his creative talents marking him as the best passer in the business, his nickname 'The Maestro'. Haynes is always remembered as Fulham's greatest ever player and the Cottagers will mark the anniversary of his passing by unveiling a statue of their former captain before Saturday's game with Sunderland.

Haynes' ability made him one of the most coveted players in football. At a time when young talent like Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law had been tempted to Italy by the lure of the flourishing lira, Fulham's chairman Tommy Trinder, a music hall comedian of national acclaim, had boasted that Haynes would be worth £100 a week.

Trinder, whose comedy catchphrase was "you lucky people", was forced to pay just that amount when Hill persuaded the Football League to drop a restriction that had been in place since the beginning of the 1901-2 season. Haynes received his magic ton as soon as the legislation was revoked as Trinder, well acquainted with such sums through his success in the entertainment industry, handed him the cash without complaint.

The battle against the imposition of the maximum wage had first been taken up way back in 1907 by Billy Meredith, the Welsh wing wizard then playing at Manchester United. Meredith and other United players formed the Association Football Players Union, a precursor to the PFA, and were banned from football for their troubles. In 1939 the maximum wage of £8 was double the average industrial wage. By 1961, despite a slow creeping up during the 1950s, the top-level of £20 was only £5 more than that national average. The short career of a footballer gave players little chance to create a nest-egg for a life outside the game. So low were wages that the spectre of illegal payments and even match-fixing had started to haunt the English game.

The post-war depression had not been a time of avarice, with most players accepting their monetary fate and ready to take on a career outside the game. Tom Finney, perhaps that era's greatest player, was known as the 'Preston Plumber' after completing an apprenticeship in the trade.

Few sought their fortune in the European or Global game, Finney turning down £10,000 to join Palermo in Italy in 1952. Two Englishmen in Neil Franklin and Charlie Mitten accepted similar fees to play in the rebel Colombian league alongside a young Alfredo Di Stefano in 1950 only to return homesick.

The riches on offer in European football were only available to a select few. Welsh giant John Charles had prospered in Serie A after joining Juventus in 1957. It was in his footsteps that the likes of Law, Greaves, Joe Baker and Gerry Hitchens followed at the turn of the decade. The chance was there for Haynes to follow Greaves to AC Milan, who offered £80,000 for his services in a deal which it was said would have made Haynes the best paid player in world football.

As it was, Haynes, London born and bred, did not have to follow the unhappy exile of Greaves, Baker and Law. Though England forward Hitchens stayed in Italy for nine years at four different clubs, Baker, Law and Greaves could barely wait to return to English football as all did during the 1961-2 season, once the pay limtation had been lifted. Yet none of them commanded the same money as Fulham's captain.

That £100 weekly wage, also supplemented by a spell advertising Brylcreem, took Haynes far in excess of the earning of more latterly fabled contemporaries. Liverpool, under Bill Shankly, attempted to enforce an unoffical wages ceiling while Manchester United imposed a maximum of £50 a week on stars like Bobby Charlton and Law.

Haynes' moment in the sun would soon fade, his England career ended by cruciate ligament damage sustained in a car accident in 1962. By the time Charlton and Bobby Moore, his successor as England captain were lifting the World Cup in 1966, Haynes was fighting a yearly relegation battle with Fulham, his passing and vision, lessened anyway by the injuries, were matched by the quality of his team-mates on an ever rarer basis. By 1970, when Haynes quit England to play in South African football, Fulham were in the old Third Division.

Returning to Britain in 1984, Haynes chose to settle up in Scotland and it was while in Edinburgh in 2005 that he suffered a brain haemorrhage at the wheel of his car on his 71st birthday. He never recovered conciousness. Despite a long exile from England, Haynes was mourned by team-mates and fans who had watched him in his heyday, his skills and flair living long in the memory.

So too did that status as the first highest-paid footballer. And though Trinder's largesse annoyed many a chairman of the time, Haynes' yearly salary of around £5,000 a year, more than five times the average of the time, did not see Haynes accumulate the lottery-esque lucre the top earners currently do.

Frank Lampard's latest contract is said to earn him £39.2m in the next five years, yielding him £150,000 a week, six times the average yearly salary in the UK. Once he hangs up his boots, Lampard need never lift a finger again, nor perhaps will his children. Haynes ended his days running a dry-cleaning business with his third wife. Following the abolition of 1961, changes to freedom of movement abandoning the old "transfer and retain" system and ultimately the Bosman Ruling further transferred the power from clubs to player.

Lampard and Roman Abramovich may not know it but Haynes and Trinder are their forebears. Haynes himself didn't hold it against his successors saying: "Good luck to them, it's only numbers. In my day you could buy a Jag for £600, a lovely suburban house for six grand."

At Fulham, for whom he played 658 times, and for ageing fans of England, after playing 58 times and captaining his country 22 times, he will always be remembered as one of the best footballers of his era.


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