Return of the Ginger Ninja
Dave Kitson would be up there with Michael Gilkes and Shaka Hislop as one of my all time favourite players. I first took note of the Ginger Ninja in a 2-2 draw between Cambridge United and Reading at the Abbey Stadium back in 2002. The former shelf stacker was everywhere that day and it was with huge excitement that I greeted his arrival at Madejski Stadium a year later.
Big Dave’s sleight of passing, studied flicks around the edge of the box, and crashing finishes were a hallmark of his half decade in blue and white hoops: a spell of wonder that earned him the status of an all-era legend. Part of the appeal lay in his well spoken intelligence and seeming refusal to be part of the Boys Club surrounding football. Kitson made mistakes for sure, and some of his public pronouncements enjoyed lead balloon type qualities, but his friendship with a cabal of more intelligent players in the squad such as Bobby Convey marked him out as an individual far from enamoured with The Sun reading class.
New team mate Chris Riggott put paid to Kitson’s season after the carrot topped one had provided Reading’s first ever top flight goal, but he came back strongly from injury, capping that first season with a winner against Newcastle, followed by an excellent pre-Christmas run in Reading’s sophomore year. Two in a zany 6-4 reverse at White Hart lane signalled how little he was too blame for the club’s subsequent demise and few blamed him when he boarded the passing Stoke ship on its way into the Premiership dockyards.
But his time in red and white was disastrous. A driving ban contributed to his failure to settle in the Potteries and he rejoined the Royals for a disappointing loan spell last winter. Back in red and white for this term, he started in sprightly fashion, with strikes against Sunderland and Bolton. Rumours of a falling out with new backroom man Peter Reid ensued however — with murmurings of dissatisfaction at the style of play and training methods. Now Kitson is back and will be working alongside former cohort Leroy Lita at Middlesbrough. Gordon Strachan may be in a better position to get the best out of him: I for one will be urging him on with gusto.