ENGLAND, 1 CAP

(CAREER: 1)

V SWITZERLAND, 2 DECEMBER 1948

When some of we Baggies complain that in days of yore – in days when Albion regularly fielded players more than worthy of consideration for England – those who wore the stripes were not given a fair crack of the whip, there are those who think we are sucking upon the sourest of grapes, that we know not of what we speak.

Perhaps. But let me point you in the direction of the great ray Barlow. One England cap. Ronnie Allen, just five. Jeff Astle the same number. Tony Brown, the scandalous total of one solitary cap. Even the Scots looked askance at those plying their trade at The Hawthorns. Sir Robert Hope, two caps. Two. We should have invaded Edinburgh again just on the basis of that.

And then there’s the curious case of Jackie Haines, an Albion star on the late 1940s. One England cap. Two goals. That gives him the most prolific goal ratio in England’s history…

Haines was born in Evesham in 1920, so it’s a simple question of mathematics to realise that a huge chunk of his career was lost to World War Two, playing for Air Command and the RAF during the conflict, following on from some pre-war games for Swansea Town, having briefly been at Liverpool as a trialist in 1938.

He was a quick, punchy inside forward, sharp off the mark with great ouch and good vision, always possessing a sharp eye for goalscoring opportunities. He joined the Throstles in March 1948 for a fee of £6,000 and made an immediate impact, knocking in a goal against West Ham on his debut, going on to finish the season with six goals in 10 games including a hat-trick in the 6-0 pummelling of Bradford Park Avenue.

The Baggies raced to promotion in 1948/49, Haines one of the key men alongside centre-forward Dave Walsh, Billy Elliott, the young Len Millard and the magnificent Jackie Vernon at centre-half. Haines was in good form, scoring and creating goals and, in December 1948, he received his call up papers – thankfully they were from Walter Winterbottom rather than King George VI.

Summoned to Highbury to play in a rare international against continental opposition, Haines made his England debut against Switzerland, although he had to wait an extra 24 days, the game postponed for a day because of thick fog in the London area – a right peasouper, gor blimey and no mistake Mary Poppins.

It was something of an experimental, if still pretty celestial England line up. While Jackie was making his debut, he was in good company. Tottenham goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn, last line of defence in the majestic push and run side was in the same boat as was the outside-left from Wolverhampton, Johnny Hancocks. Inside right Jack Rowley was another debutant as was the right full-back, an immaculate man by the name of Alf Ramsey. Like Haines, Alf had lost a lot of his career to war, such that he lied about his age afterwards to ensure that Southampton gave him a chance of a contract. Ramsey was to join Ditchburn at White Hart Lane as the footballing full-back that completed Arthur Rowe’s push and run jigsaw that also featured Vic Buckingham, later to be the boss of Albion’s 1954 FA Cup winners.

The Swiss were little more than cannon fodder in truth, and England had wrapped up the game by half-time, leading 3-0, Hancocks opening the scoring after half an hour before an inspired Haines ran n to goals to finish the game as a contest. Hancocks was on the mark again in the second period, as were Rowley and Jackie Milburn. England ran out 6-0 winners, highly satisfactory.

And that was the end of Jackie Haines’ England career. Yes, England had fine players to call on in those days, but the inside-left berth was a problem area, the selectors veering between Stan Pearson, Len Shackleton and Wilf Mannion over the following seasons, Haines hugely unfortunate not to get another opportunity.

Haines ended the 1948/49 season with 14 league goals before injury cut short his contribution to the first season back in the top flight. He moved on to Bradford Park Avenue in December 1949, injury having just robbed him of that little edge that had made him special over that eighteen month period at The Hawthorns. But two international goals on debut and never a second cap? Yes, the England selectors do discriminate against the Baggies.