Paul Kitson (vid,pics)

Paul Kitson joined West Ham from Newcastle on 10 February 1997 in a £2.3 million fee. West Ham were fighting against relegation from the Premier League when Kitson joined them.

West Ham’s assistant manager Frank Lampard said, “The last man we signed from Newcastle was Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson in the 1970s and Paul has the same qualities. He is quick, sharp and has good physical attributes.” He made his home debut, against Tottenham on 22 February 1997, which West Ham won 4–3. Kitson scored West Ham’s second goal, with other new signing John Hartson getting the third goal to also score on his debut..

Kitson bagged two against Chelsea in a 3–2 win, two against Everton in a 2–2 draw, and bagged a hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday in a 5–1 win. Hammers survived relegation despite a tough season and finished 14th, with Kitson’s eight goals in 14 league games being priceless to their survival.

Subsequent seasons at Upton Park were not quite so successful, with the 1997-98 seeing Kitson restricted to 13 games and 4 goals in the Premier League (though the Hammers improved to eighth in the league and just missed out on a UEFA place in their best season for over a decade), and a year later he contributed 17 games and 3 goals to a side which finished fifth to secure UEFA Cup football and their first European campaign in almost 20 years.

However, Kitson’s first team opportunities were becoming even more limited, as he made 10 goalless league appearances in 1999-2000 and just two in 2000-01. After a long period without scoring he surprisingly scored a hat-trick in the 4–4 draw with Charlton on 19 November 2001 for West Ham, a match that he considers to be the highlight of a career in which he failed to live up to his vast potential. The first of these goals was a blistering right foot volley after a through ball from Paolo Di Canio – it was voted number three by the West Ham supporters’ association poll of their top 10 goals of the decade.These were the only goals he scored in the 2001-02 season – his last at the club.

During his final three seasons at West Ham, Kitson was loaned out to Charlton Athletic and Crystal Palace, but neither of these spells was particularly productive.

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