ENGLAND 6 -v- SWITZERLAND 0
At Highbury Stadium, 1st December 1948
Hancocks-Haines cartoon by the great Norman Edwards
With Albion’s biggest match of the season so far, just around the corner, I am talking of course of the impending ‘black country’ derby against the Wolves, which Albion ‘legend’ Cyrille Regis likened to a ‘war of attrition’, it is perhaps time to reflect back to the late 1940’s when two prominent stars of each side, linked together ‘as one’ on International ‘duty’ for their country..
Just before Christmas in 1948, the ‘mighty’ England entertained Switzerland in an International friendly at Arsenal’s Highbury ground.
Back in those days , Wembley was not necessarily the first choice of the Football Association for representative games, and grounds like Highbury, Stamford Bridge, Goodison Park and Maine Road Manchester were used. True, Switzerland were somewhat ‘Minnows’ in the International framework in those days, but for two young Midlands hopefuls, it was a day to remember.
Indeed the two ‘fledgling’ internationals, Jack Haines of Albion and Johnny Hancocks of the Wolves would form an all midlands left wing partnership, that would blow the visitors away. England romping to a 6-0 victory. For Haines and Hancocks, selection was indeed a surprise. The late great Charles Harrold of the Birmingham Gazette, proclaimed at the time, in contradiction to many ‘Journos’ from Fleet Street, that it was a justified decision, due to the goalscoring prowess of both men at their respective clubs. Four goals between them, two apiece, bore out Harrold’s belief in their selection before the kick off, with a vengeance.
International debut for Jack Haines
It fell to Albion’s Jack Haines to lead the goal-rush, when after no more that 5 minutes he raced into the box to head home a perfect cross from none other than the great ‘Wor’ Jackie Milburn, the Newcastle United leader. By the time he scored, albeit only 5 minutes into his International career, the Highbury crowd had already warmed to him, given his sublime passing skills, and interchanging with Jack Rowley. When he latched onto Milburn’s cross, that had eluded keeper Corrodi, and headed the ball down into the net, the crowd erupted, to ensure that Haines lived his greatest football moment ever.
From that point onwards the Swiss were hardly in the game. Playing a defensive formation that bemused many onlookers from the Fleet Street press entourage, they had no answer to the home side’s swift football, and England proceeded to tear them apart. They certainly had no answer to the quick moving England forwards, including the mercurial Haines and his Wolves partner Hancocks. The latter being followed everywhere by right half Lanz, with very little success, it was noted by Harrold.
This ‘almost suicidal’ move by the Swiss only gave the great man Stanley Matthews, on the right, an open playing field. While Haines and Hancocks caused havoc on the left, Matthews and Rowley enjoyed complete freedom on the right. Matthews marker, wing half Lusenti had a torrid time, as the England wing master literally tore him to shreds. At one time ‘nutmegging’ him to the delight of the ‘adoring’ England fans.
Jack Haines - Scored two against the Swiss
After the Haines opener, Johnny Hancocks increased the England lead on 24 minutes, striking home Stan Matthews cross, meeting the ball a foot off the ground and volleying it into the net. Less than a minute later, the Albion man made it three, when Haines headed home a Hancocks corner, to give the home side a comfortable 3-0 advantage at half time.
After the break, England carried on pretty much’ from where they left off. On 55 minutes Rowley, cracked home what Charles Harrold described as a ‘shot that hit the net like a hurricane’. That spectacular goal was followed on 63 minutes by yet another Hancocks ‘snorter’ again from a Matthews cross. Four minutes later the scoring was complete when ‘Wor’ Jackie finished off a move with Rowley, planting the ball safely in the corner of the net.
The Albion man Haines had a great day, but as Charles Harrold proclaimed, it would be stretching the truth to say he was England’s best forward. That accolade once again went to the ‘wizard of the wing’ Stanley Matthews who was according to Harrold, virtually unplayable. He had the ball as often as he liked, thanks to yet another great midland player, skipper Billy Wright who again according to Harrold ‘was the power’ behind the Matthews-Rowley link. It was indeed exhibition stuff, with the skipper himself, very nearly getting into the goal-scoring act.
Sadly, Haines received a knock after 25 minutes, which flared up after the match, causing him to miss Albion’s next fixture against Barnsley. That was to be the first match he would miss since he joined Albion the previous March.
Laurie Rampling – October 2011.