Date of birth
Every team needs goals. Without them, you can’t win games. £150,000 was the fee paid for a relatively untried and barely tested 23-year-old on Boxing Day in 2003 and that was enough to bring goals in abundance to Steve Coppell’s side.
Kitson had regularly rippled the net at Cambridge United, scoring 47 goals in 123 appearances with the Abbey Stadium outfit after coming into football late from the total obscurity of shelf-stacking at Sainsbury’s.
Coppell was short on goal scoring alternatives and Kitson followed Lloyd Owusu through the Madejski Stadium doors in an attempt to bolster our goalmouth threat.
He certainly did that. His full debut came in a 3-2 victory at Cardiff, in which he scored the second, and two weeks later he instantly became a fans’ favourite by scoring twice in a 2-0 win over Alan Pardew’s West Ham at Madejski Stadium.
Kitson’s name soon emulated Cureton’s as the ‘what a bargain’ chant was adapted to salute a new hero; the tall flame-haired frontman won the Player of the Season gong at the end of his first full season as a Royal before beating his 2004/05 goal tally of 19 by scoring 22 the following season as Reading took the title and stormed into the Premier League for the first time in our history.
Not content with the cult status already achieved, Kitson stabbed home Seol Ki-Hyeon’s low cross to score the club’s first ever top flight goal in front of the North Stand as the Royals came from two goals down to upset Middlesbrough on the opening day of the season.
Cruelly, injury struck minutes later when Kitson was felled by a horrible Chris Riggott tackle and knee ligament damage interrupted his Premier League impact.
He returned to gloriously score the winner against Newcastle here that April and, once fit again, he impressed at the start of the following season to the extent that he was reportedly in the running for an England call-up.
It never came, he could do nothing to spare the Royals from the heartache of final day relegation and despite returning to the club on loan after an unsuccessful switch to Stoke, his best days in blue and white hoops were evidently behind him.
He will always be remembered for being a man in the right place at the right time, knowing where the net was, and scoring some of the most historic goals in the club’s long history.