A case of what might have been for Paul Kitson?

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Paul Kitson was a striker who played in the top flight of English football for 12 years and the most distinguished clubs of whom he played for were Newcastle United and West Ham United. His spell at Newcastle was one of limited appearances due to the quality of the strikers already present and the one’s that were to come at the club. It was at West Ham that Kitson really shone through, showing his worth in excess by teaming up with John Hartson, creating a formidable strike force. His career was one of unfortunate brevity from Newcastle onwards, owing to injuries, circumstance and inconsistent performances.

Kitson secured his move to Newcastle from Derby County, where he had scored 36 goals in 105 appearances. He cost around £2.25 million and was reportedly paid £3,500 a week which nearly caused the deal to be put in jeopardy, as Newcastle didn’t want to restructure their payment system. The deal eventually materialised and Kitson’s debut came against Manchester United in what is now the Carling Cup, he scored one of the goals which helped produce a 2-0 win.

More gifted players started in-front of Kitson in the forms of Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley, leaving the striker to be used sparingly as a squad player. Yet being behind prolific players isn’t necessarily a negative thing, you learn and improve in their presence and there is always the possibility they will move on, as was the case with Cole moving to Manchester United. Kitson would fill his boots admirably and scored 8 goals in 26 appearances due to it being the second half of the 1994-95 Premier League season. The season culminated in disappointment as Newcastle slumped to 6th after having been one of the title favourites.

During the 1995-96 season Kitson was again finding himself second best after Les Ferdinand was drafted in and so was Faustino Asprilla mid-season. This gave Kitson little opportunity to start or even feature for Newcastle, managing only seven league games and two goals. With incentives dwindling Kitson somehow found enough motivation to stay, that is until Alan Shearer was signed and sealed Kitson’s fate to seek football elsewhere.

West Ham chose to buy him for £2.3 million, giving Kitson a new lease of life with his exit going fairly unnoticed due to Kevin Keegan’s exit just weeks earlier. At Upton Park Kitson would form a renowned strike partnership with John Hartson, both scoring on their debut against Tottenham in a 4-3 victory. In his 14 games Kitson would succeed in scoring 8 goals which helped West Ham to avoid relegation.

Kitson’s story descends into less glamorous depths from here on in, by only playing 20 games combined from the next two seasons, hence only scoring a dismal 7 goals. The next three seasons were even worse and resulted in Kitson playing his last game after having not started in 21 months, nor scored for a year longer. This game saw him score a hat-trick against Charlton to sign off in style.

Five lower league clubs were to give Kitson playing time, with Charlton and Crystal Palace taking him on loan from West Ham. Brighton & Hove Albion would sign him on a free and so would Rushden & Diamonds, he then trialed for St. Albans City which proved futile because he finished his career playing for non-league side Aldershot Town. A career of brief jubilation coupled with team mates that kept him on the bench would ultimately end in Kitson never giving up his passion, football.

Written by Elliot O’Reilly

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