The Fulham and England midfielder was always awestruck by a fellow former Cottager.
Fulham have a proud tradition of producing future England internationals. Sir Bobby Robson made over 150 appearances before moving to West Brom and winning the first of 20 caps in 1957. Rodney Marsh and Paul Parker also started out with the Cottagers before joining QPR and earning international recognition.
Then there was Alan Mullery, who left Fulham for Tottenham in 1964 and duly won the first of 35 caps for his country. His idol was a footballer who, like George Cohen, won all of his caps while at Fulham – ‘The Maestro’ Johnny Haynes, whose statue was unveiled at Craven Cottage in 2008.
Inside-forward Haynes played 658 times for Fulham in a one-club career. In 1954, two weeks before his 20th birthday, he received the first of 56 England call-ups. Ultimately he would win 22 as captain until a knee injury sustained in a road accident in 1962 prematurely ended his international career.
His defining moment had come at Wembley four years earlier when his hat-trick helped England to a 5-0 victory over the Soviet Union.
“Haynesy was a hero of mine even before I signed for Fulham as a teenager,” says Mullery, who replaced him as skipper.
“He could spray balls 60 yards like nobody else – this is going back over 40 years when balls weighed a ton. There was no other footballer who could do that. Only Johnny.
“While I was sweeping the terraces, I’d watch the team train. After everyone had gone in, Johnny would come back out with a bath towel which he’d lay down by the corner flag. He’d take a bag of footballs over to the halfway line on the far side of the field and would hit cross-field balls over to the towel. By the time he’d got through the bag, ten out of 12 balls were on the towel. Incredible.
“I was at Tottenham when they tried to sign him. It would’ve broken the transfer record as Spurs were offering £100,000. But he turned it down and Fulham looked after him by making him the first £100-a-week player.
“I never got to play with him for England. But had he not had the accident, I don’t doubt for one second that he would have been part of the 1966 team... He was only 27.
“Pele described Haynesy as the greatest passer of the ball he’d ever seen, which says it all. I joined Fulham for no other reason than him. He was my idol, always will be.”