Fred 'Johnny' Hayward 1887-1958 - The Legend

 '... six players chased him, one attempting a rugby tackle, he continued in a mazey run and with a thunderous shot the sphere hit the netting'

There is an old saying that records are there to be broken. However there are some that are so mind-blowing, so incredible that you know it would be futile even trying. In today's modern game, Fred 'Johnny' Hayward's English goalscoring record, will stand and the likelihood is that it will never even come close to being beaten. 548 (recorded) goals for one club - Yeovil Town. 

When Fred Hayward was born in 1887, his early childhood home could not have been more apt. Wellington Street, a row of terraced houses, was a minutes walk from what would later become the iconic home of the Glovers. Also a short walk to West Hendford the original setting for early Yeovil matches, it is safe to say that a young Fred would have frequented matches there William and Ann Hayward, Fred's parents had already been blessed with six children before Fred came along, four older sisters and two older brothers, Fred being the last of their seven children. By the age of four years old, the family had upped sticks  just down the road to Huish, again just a stones throw away from the ground that he would later gain legendary and hero status. 

It's not recorded which school Johnny, as he affectionately was refered by, attended however by the time he was fourteen he'd left and was employed as a Solicitors Clerk, suggesting he had achieved a moderate to good level of education. At that age he was already playing in the local football league for the  Boys Brigade Baptist FC. Although, reports show that Fred's earliest sporting prowess was in cricket. A promising all rounder turning out for various Cricket clubs on picturesque pitches throughout the district.. In July 1904, averaging 40 with the bat and once taking 6 for 10 whilst playing for the YMCA, still only seventeen years old. 

Of course, it was football that was Fred's first love. In 1906 he was performing for the YMCA, playing a match against the Baptist the match was described 'a poor match, however F. Hayward for the YMCA having a rattling good game'. Ironically, in so much that his goalscoring record was to become his fame, in the local league matches one could not label him prolific. However come Christmas 1906 he was selected to play for the Pick of the league team to play Yeovil Casuals at Pen Mill, making his mark by scoring in a 2-2 draw.  A few months later, also on the Pen Mill pitch, 'Johnny' was displaying another sporting string to his bow, at an Athletics meeting and by jumping over 17 feet and coming second in the Long jump. 

Yeovil YMCA FC - 1906

' Johnny' was given another chance to shine on the football field when in April 1907, he was again selected for the League team to take on the champions, Petters United. Again, scoring in a 3-1 victory for his team. His performance had not gone unnoticed at Pen Mill, the home of Yeovil Casuals. A week later he was called up to play for the premier club in the town. 

One could only guess at the feelings of the then nineteen year old 'Johnny' Hayward would have had when he turned up at Pen Mill on that late April Saturday in 1907. Firstly, one can guess a sense of pride, his debut for a team that he had undoubtedly would have watched as a child. Maybe a a few nerves, the Wiltshire League was a big step up from the Yeovil and District league. However, Johnny seemed to have immense believe in his own ability. Warminster were the visitors, the match a dead rubber. Playing in the middle of the attack, Johnny described as 'the YM star', took his maiden opportunity well, scoring his first goal in senior football, it being  described as a ' first rate shot' following it up with another that rattled the bar. Losing 2-1, one can be sure the talk of the fans leaving the Pen Mill stadium that day would of been of the impressive young Hayward. 

Johnny Hayward's first match for Yeovil Casuals 

His summer of 1907 was spent as captain of the YMCA cricket club, competing in the Yeovil District Senior League. It was not a successful one, his team finishing a disappointing second from bottom of the league. Young Fred not having the best of seasons with bat or ball. Summer soon came to an end and the thoughts of football came around again. Obviously impressed with his performance at the end of the previous season, Hayward was signed on by the club. Normally the natural progression would be from the 'A' team (Reserves) and to work your way into the Senior side. Hayward, however was straight into the first team. In their first match of the season a friendly against Upton Park from London. 'Johnny' drew a blank in a 4-3 defeat. It was to be a rare blank though, in the next 26 matches he would play, he would score in 21 of them. His first being against Royal Garrison Army, in a brutal match at Pen Mill, his goal described :

'Hayward drove the ball into the net at express speed amid enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, it was undoubtedly the goal of the match'

The affect of his introduction into the side was immediate. Goals came from all over, close range, long range headers, penalties, rebounds, he was simply unstoppable. Standing around 5'10, not overly tall, however blessed with immense speed, his frame not muscley, his legs likewise. However, his shots were sent goal wise with total power, seemingly with excellent technique and timing . In the 26 games he played during his first season, Hayward had scored 4 goals in a match on four occasions and added two hat tricks in other matches. 

It hadn't gone unnoticed, within three months, 'Johnny' had rightly earnt his first call up as a reserve for the Somerset County team to play Devon at Pen Mill in mid-January 1908, alas not making the team, much to the condemnation of the Yeovil footballing public. His chance came though, earning his first Somerset cap a month later against Hampshire at Moordown in front of 3000. In a 5-2 defeat, 'Johnny' was praised for his performance, marking it with a goal, ' a very fine shot from 20 yards range'. 

By the end of his first debut season 'Johnny' had 41 goals to his name . He was just warming up! In the summer of 1908 he went back to his cricket, although now stepping up a level and playing for Yeovil Cricket club. Earning praise for a commendable 43, including 7 fours against Crewkerne at West Hendford. 

If Yeovil supporters worried that Hayward would be a one season wonder, the worry th became quickly dispelled. Scoring an incredible  18 goals by the end of December in just 15 games. At Home Park, Plymouth, in November 1908, he also scored both goals in a famous victory for Somerset over a very strong Devon Countyside. For Glovers fans, if he wasn't a hero already, scoring five goals in a 9-1 victory over traditional rivals Weymouth in January 1909, would have certainly given him Godlike status! 

Devon v Somerset, 24th November 1908

The 1908-09 season ended up with Yeovil capturing the prestigious Dorset championship, after a 3-0 win over Branksome Gas at Dorchester, Hayward scoring his 33rd goal of the season. Celebrations were in order when the team arrived back in Yeovil, at the Borough 1000s of supporters had gathered to hear the captain Bert Maughan speak to those who had gathered. The enthusiastic crowd screamed  for a speech from their hero 'Johnny' - shyly, he declined. 

Fred Hayward with the Dorset Cup in 1909

Fred Hayward was still only twenty-two years old, in such a short time he'd been catapulted into fame throughout the town, if not the county. At the Yeovil FC annual General meeting in the Victoria Hall in 1909, he was elected as captain of the team. 'Johhny' accepted and spoke to those gathered:

"I would like to thank you for this unexpected honour, that you have given me, I will do my best for you and hope to pull all the players together" 

Something didn't fit right with Hayward though, a day after the meeting he decided against being captain, stating work commitments in the glove factory where he was now working wouldn't permit it. Although, one has to remember Hayward was still in his youth, maybe the responsibility on his young shoulders would have been a heavy burden. A hastily arranged meeting of players and committee voted Bert Maughan back in as captain. 

The following season 1909-10, word was circulating that Fred's displays were being closely monitored by Exeter City, he had played and scored against them in a number of friendly matches. Although scoring regularly, his scoring feats were not matching that of his previous two season. With a fine English cup run, the Glovers had reached the last qualifying round of the prestigious forerunner of the FA Cup, the furthest they had achieved so far. A trip to the capital against the famous amateur team Clapton FC was the reward. Fred's reputation had obviously travelled as the London Press had singled him out as one of the best amateur players in the whole of the West of England and the Yeovil danger man. On the day, in a one way match with chances few for the Somerset wide, Fred and Yeovil travelled back to Somerset defeated 6-1.

Something mysterious was happening surrounding Fred Hayward in February 1910, he had failed to turn out in the 2-1 home win against Frome , the first win of the season in the Somerset league. It had been known for some time Exeter had been keeping further tabs on the young talented striker. A few days later, the Exeter press, excitedly announced that Hayward had signed Southern league forms at St James Park and was making his debut for The Grecians a couple of days later against St Lukes College.

A few days later again, the Exeter press again confirmed Hayward's signature explaining his abscense from games as Hayward suffering from influenza. Which may have had an element of truth, most of February he also wasn't in the Yeovil side. A few weeks later against the Royal Garrison, those gathered were delighted to see 'Johnny' running out in a Yeovil shirt, Exeter and Influenza seemingly forgotten, he marked his return by scoring twice! 

Goals and success followed for Fred, in the next couple of seasons, scoring a further 54 goals from 53 matches, adding the Somerset Senior league to his ever growing medal collection and now being the first name on the team sheet for the Somerset County side. 

At the start of the 1912-13  season, Fred was absent, with very good reason. He was in Weston-super-Mare on honeymoon with his new bride Mabel Harbour, Sister of his Glovers's team mate, Harry Harbour. On returning they set up home in Everton Road, again a couple of minutes walk to Huish. Now in his mid-twenties, a new bride and now captain of the Glovers, and probably the most famous inhabitant in the town, one can deduce that Fred was a very contented young man. It certainly showed in his performances his 36 goals in the season bringing more silverware to the club with the Somerset senior league and Charity cup captured. However, Fred's greatest feat of the season, and arguably his career was his goals for the County. Somerset in reaching the Southern Counties final for the first time in it's history, were rewarded with a final against Middlesex at Pen Mill, Yeovil. A wet and windy day didn't stop nearly 3000 turning out for the final and to see 'our Johnny' . Hayward again didn't disappoint and was unstoppable scoring two in a 4-1 win, a result celebrated in all of Somerset. His second being described as 

'Hayward scored with a lightening strike that travelled into the far corner of the net at lightening speed. The Yeovilians double strike was to the great liking of the crowd who cheered themselves hoarse'

Fred Hayward proudly wearing his County cap in 1913. 

During 1914, the two senior teams in the town, Yeovil and Petters United had come to the conclusion that an amalgamation would be the best move forward to widen the appeal of football in the town and to expand into the wider world of the ever growing sport. Something that 'Johnny' voiced his disapproval off, although promising to do his best for his home town in whatever happened. At the end of the season, Johnny played, and as far as as it is known, his one and only match for another club when he pulled on the amber and black strip of Petters United at Brickyard Lane in a Wiltshire League match against Melksham Town. He scored four of the goals in a 14-0 hammering of the Wiltshire side. 

Alas, it would be the last action seen. As senior league football was brought to an abrupt halt with the outbreak of War. Along with the vast majority of his teammates, Johnny joined up to do their bit for King and Country. Enrolling into the Machine Gun Corp. A roll that warranted strength, marksmanship and fitness and of course bravery. Thankfully, 'Johnny' survived the horrendous experience and returned home to Mabel, lovingly waiting for him at Everton Road. Four of his team mates were not so lucky and did not return , including  his friend and team mate Charlie Larcombe, who supplied 'Johnny' with so many of his goals. 

When 'Johnny' eventually returned to football he was approaching thirty-two years of age. Amalgamation now complete, he found himself in the new style and unfamiliar strip of white shirts and navy blue shorts for the highly ambitious Yeovil & Petters United. He also found himself technically in a higher standard of football as Yeovil had entered, for the first time, into the Western League Division Two. If opponents thought the horrors of war, a few years off and age would slow Fred down, they were quickly kicked into touch. If anything, he'd come back stronger, scoring 4 goals in 5 matches and in one match against the Royal Tank Corp, banged in a double hatrick in a nine-nil victory His 52 goals from just 33 matches was his best return yet. A year later, Yeovil applied to and were accepted in the higher Western League One. Far from the provincial towns of Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire, matches further afield would be undertaken, mostly in Wales against the professional reserve sides of clubs such as Cardiff City, Swansea Town, Barry along with Bristol City and Bristol Rovers. It didn't daunt him, the goals still rained in, as he finished the season averaging over a goal a game. 

Yeovil and Petters United 1919-20.  Captain Fred Hayward front and centre. 

His hero status amongst Glovers fans was growing more and more, in the days before globalisation, heroes for the youth were garnished from the sporting exploits of local inhabitants. Before him in Yeovil was Gilbert Vassell, the Corinthian and Oxford blue, before Vassell, there was Arthur Paul Read who wore the Yeovil strip in the early 1890's at West Hendford. Vassell and Read both getting England call ups. Neither, no mater though could arouse the adulation the football loving public of South Somerset bestowed on Fred 'Johnny' Hayward. 

By December 1920, Fred's goalscoring  exploits had resulted in 277 goals in just 288 matches, for the county side he'd produced a return of 24 goals in 22 matches. Benefit matches and testimonials were a few years off, the adoring Yeovil supporters decided to show their appreciation for his accomplishments themselves. Collections were held at Yeovil matches and elsewhere. At a time when unemployment was surging, still a sizeable amount was raised for their hero. At a presentation held in early December 1920 at the Glovers Arms in Yeovil, the 'Father of Yeovil football' Fred Bond presented 'Johnny' with the cheque. He was truly humbled. He thanked all for their kindness and hoped to continue for the seasons ahead. 

With the ambitious club needing funds to match that ambition, a Supporters club was organised with the sole aim of running social occasions to raise the revenue. Dances, smoking evenings, a 'Guess when the stop watch stops' competition and whist drives, all undertaken on a near monthly basis. In nearly each one Fred was there showing his support, and one can guess improving the footfall. Unfortunately, one thing that transpired Fred was not accomplished at was the card game of whist - regularly winning the booby prize for the lowest score. 

On the pitch Fred continued! Scoring at will, it seemed and bringing Yeovil more trophies including the Western League two and Bristol Charity league, and of course more medals to add to his collection. Now playing at Huish, the famous sloping ground of Yeovil Town before moving to Huish Park in 1990. Another step up in football was made in the 1922-23 season when the club entered the Southern League, again resulting in matches even further away from home. All the way from Devon to Norfolk. Additionally the club had now become a professional outfit, under their first player manager Jack Gregory, who knew a good striker when he saw one. Fred, now 35, welcomed the professional wage of his club and continued his trade in the Gloving industry with an ever growing family the two wages would have been most welcome. 

Fred Hayward on the right and Bill Day collect the Western League and Bristol Charity league trophies in May 1922.

The superlatives were running out for 'Johnny', at an age when most strikers are looking to polish the medals and lay in bed reliving past glories, yet, Fred kept going. Scoring another double hattrick against in a 12-1 FA Cup victory over Westbury United. 

Hardly a match went by in the 1923-24 season where the name Hayward was not printed on the score sheet, clinching the Southern League Western section, at the time the highest achievement at that time, in the club's history, assisted with his 37 goals. 

36 year old Fred Hayward in 1924

Although Fred was still the Glovers main striker, age was starting to tell. With the signing of sixteen year old Harry Scott from Torquay in 1924, the Yeovil management astutely were looking for goals elsewhere, knowing Hayward could not continue carrying the clubs striking fortunes for much longer . Also for sixteen year old Scott, what better man to learn your trade from than the master himself. Scott, like Hayward, despite his age, was a goal machine. Both playing up front together young and old. In fact Hayward was three seasons and countless Yeovil goals scored even before Scott was born down in Devon. However slowly Harry Scott took over Fred Hayward in the top goalscorers list in the 1925-26  season. 

Nobody knows, if Fred decided that the 1926-27 was to be his last, however the last it was to be. Signing strikers Tommy Lowes from Newport County and Harry Pidgeon from Southend, of course along with Harry Scott the writing was on the wall. The club were now looking nationwide for players. However, even at 39 years old, Fred, when playing took his chances. Scoring two hattricks in a week in September against Exeter in the Southern league and Street in a 10-1 FA Cup win. The chances for the first team became less, and by March Fred  found himself mostly in the reserves, playing at the likes of Portland and Branksome gas. 

A visit to Newport, Wales to play Lovells Athletic on the 7th May 1927, one wonders the emotions that were running through Fred 'Johnny' Hayward's head. He was in the reserves again, facing this long trip into the principality. A man who had given, minus war years, twenty years of his life to the club, a club which with his achievements had allowed the Glovers to grow and grow. Yet, now facing his last game in the Green and White, in the reserves at some godforsaken mud covered pitch in Wales. However, maybe it was a sign of the man. No ego, no vainess, maybe for Fred it was still an honour, his love for the game and more importantly his love for his club driving him on for one last time. If Lovells thought the great man would take things easy, they were very mistaken. Fred Hayward decided to chose his last ever match by doing something he had never achieved before, he scored seven goals in a 12-1 victory. With that he put his well worn boots back in his kitbag and returned back to the town and family he loved. 

In his twenty years, Fred Hayward had achieved feats that will never remotely be beaten. 

1 x   7 goals in a match 
3 x   6 goals in a match 
2 x   5 goals in a match 
14 x 4 goals in a match
27 x 3 goals in a match 

548 goals in total! 

His goals for one club record in World football sits second only to the great German striker Gerd Muller who scored 573 for Bayern Munich. 

Fred Hayward was truly a great player, his quantity of goals are a testament to that. Without doubt he could have played at a much higher level, possibly the highest. Which leaves the question why didn't he? Maybe the question should be why would he? He was a Yeovil boy, who obviously loved the team he played for and loved the town of his birth and the club and town that loved and adored him in return . At a time long before money poured into the game, it seems inconceivable why he would leave the town and the adulation and move his wife and children, Fred and Mabel had nine in total, to a city that he had nothing in common with. Maybe to Fred, Yeovil was his town, Yeovil football club was his club, and he loved it just that way. 

Fred had one more day in a Glovers's shirt, playing in a benefit match, Past v Present at Huish on the 23rd April 1935. Aged 48, the match photo shows him, his hair receding, however the same confident closed smile, and the ball between his feet. Unfortunately the match report doesn't exist, it isn't needed. One is sure Fred Hayward scored and the crowd as they always did, adored him. In later years, one could only imagine the pride he felt at seeing his sons turning out for his beloved club.

Fred Hayward, aged 48 at the Past v Present a benefit match in 1935

In October 1958, the draw for the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup was made, a routine home match against Bideford. The  news soon became replaced with the devastating news that Fred 'Johnny' Hayward, had sadly passed away aged 71 in Yeovil hospital. The whole of the Yeovil football community mourned his passing, the hero of Pen Mill and Huish, and hero to the thousands of  Yeovil fans who had witnessed the great man's skills and goals. He would never be forgotten. 

Hayward's importance in the annals of Yeovil Town FC history should never be underestimated. His brilliance on a football pitch was the difference between the Glovers and the many other local clubs such as Frome, Taunton, Bridgwater. With him the club was able to propel itself forward league by league , without him it would have been less able to. Without him the club was stagnant, plying it's football in County football with him Western League football and later Southern league football became the norm. Single handedly on the hallowed turf of Pen Mill and later Huish he took the club to a level it could only dream of being years before. 

Fred Hayward was simply a Yeovil man born and bred who became a legend, and long may that legend continue, he and his achievements must never be forgotten. 

Happy days! 

* I'd like to thank members of the Hayward family in helping in this piece and also to Bob Osborne's wonderful Yeovil History Web site. Which can be found below  


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