Following the rumours which developed at the weekend and the will he or won’t he which spread across numerous Oxford United platforms, a statement posted on the club website this morning confirmed that Dave Kitson is to retire from football at the age of 34.
Kitson, who joined the U’s in June 2013, was halfway through a two year deal but has decided to hang his boots up after returning for pre-season training. He featured in friendly wins at Farnborough and Oxford City but clearly the effects and drain on his body were too much and he has taken the decision to finish his playing career before the next season starts.
His absence from the squad at Saturday’s friendly against Didcot Town sparked much discussion and opinion on Oxford United forums with rumours starting that he had infact decided to retire. U’s head coach Michael Appleton told the media that he had given Kitson the weekend off but this morning revealed “He came to me on Friday and told me that he would like to retire.I asked him to take the weekend to think it over. It is a massive decision for any player to have to take and I felt he deserved a little time to weigh it all up. He came back to us over the weekend and told us that his mind was made up, and so we respect that decision and wish Dave all the best for the future.”
Kitson, who is widely suspected to be ‘The Secret Footballer’ – the author of two books that lift the lid on the footballing world – has yet to make any public comment on his decision but can look back on his career with pride having played in each of England’s top four divisions including around 80 appearances in the Premier League for Reading and Stoke City. His professional career began at Cambridge United who he joined at the age of 20 of previous playing part time for Hitchin Town and Arlesey Town whilst shelf-stacking at his local Sainsburys. 47 goals in 123 games later and Kitson moved to Reading for an initial fee of £150,000. In his first full season at the Royal’s he scored 19 goals in 37 games and in his second season 18 in 34 as Reading were promoted to the Premier League. Two seasons later after scoring a total of 60 goals in 146 games for Reading, he was sold to Stoke City for a fee of £5.5m, which at the time was a club record for the Potters. He made just 16 appearances for Stoke in the 2008/09 season and was loaned back to Reading in March 2009 for the rest of the season when he admitted his move had been a mistake.
He scored 3 goals in 18 appearances for Stoke in the 2009/10 season before being loaned out to Middlesbrough and subsquently joined Portsmouth for the 2010/11 season as part of the deal which took Marc Wilson from Fratton Park to the Britannia Stadium. 12 goals in 72 games for Pompey followed before he agreed to leave the club during financial turmoil and joined Sheffield United in August 2012. 11 goals in 33 league games wasn’t enough to help the Blades to promotion and he was released in the summer before joining up with Oxford United. He made 30 starts for the U’s, scoring 4 goals but picked up three suspensions during his one season whilst also struggling to stay match fit. When he was fit however, he provided a vital outlet for Oxford with crucial goals against Fleetwood and Dagenham whilst also pulling the strings from a deep position with an away game at Mansfield Town his stand out performance.
Kitson’s departure leaves U’s Head Coach Michael Appleton with just one senior striker and a big gap to fill as the season opener against Burton Albion looms ever closer. Appleton, who made Derek Fazackerley his new assistant yesterday, is with his squad on a training camp at Bisham Abbey ahead of final friendly games against Wolves and Bournemouth and must surely know he has some vital signings to make to ensure his side are ready for the start of the League Two season.