* In the era of betraying contracts and players leaving clubs for money and thinking that they are bigger than the club itself, there is at least one professional who can be called a "true gentleman," I thought I'd share it with all the Bleacher Creatures here*
It is not only a period stacking shelves at Sainsbury's which makes Dave Kitson stand out among his Premier League peers. From his desire to meet with the Football Association to discuss how the governing body could improve to his admission that he has nothing in common with his team-mates and their fondness for cars, bling and expensive labels, the Reading striker, unlike so many of his counterparts, likes to tell it how it is.
Kitson leaves few subjects untouched during an interview which lasts almost as long as a match—at one stage he spends several minutes expressing his frustration at the number of meaningless stories on the 10 o'clock news each night—but it is his thoughts on the profession that will turn him into a millionaire which are most revealing. "I would rather be regarded as a human being than a footballer," he said. "I don't like being bracketed as a footballer."
Being a footballer should mean conforming to all the usual stereotypes but Kitson, is very much his own person. He is almost apologetic when he reveals he is the owner of a Louis Vuitton washbag—"I didn't buy that, it was a present"— but there is no need to provide excuses for a 4X4, flash watch or designer clothes, all of which are regarded as must-have footballer accessories.
"I don't own a car," said the 27-year-old. "I refuse to shell out the amount of money for a car that I should be worthy of having at this level. If I spent more than £10,000 on a car, if you could see where I came from, and you could see what my dad is driving around in and you could see my friends who I used to play football with driving around in their Sky vans, it just wouldn't be right. I'm no better than any of those.
"Some of those players were 10 times the player I was. I got lucky. If I went back into my neighbourhood in a Porsche or a Bentley there would be hell to pay. That's just cars. I have no jewellery. I don't wear any chains or any watches. I wear plain clothes, no logos. I don't have a boot deal—I refuse to have one. I am just happy going along and being me and I really don't want to be that fella what I see every day. I really want to avoid it."
It is a refreshing attitude and one which has brought rich reward on the pitch. Kitson has flourished since moving from non-league Arlesey Town to Cambridge United and then Reading, with his path to the top providing additional incentive in a Premier League replete with household names. "My biggest motivation is to say, "This guy cost £10m and he's won God knows what. Well, I'm Dave Kitson, I cost £150,000 from Cambridge and I ran the show today'."
There is no doubt that working for Sainsbury's as a teenager has also coloured his approach to football. "I never understood because I was wearing the Sainsbury's clip-on tie with that uniform and the dodgy waistcoat, why somebody in a black suit could talk to me the way they did," said Kitson. "They treated you monstrously. You were abused every single day. It hardens you a little bit and I won't take any nonsense from anyone to this day."
Kitson is proud of his progress since then, although he has no wish to dwell on his own career. He enjoys watching junior football and is passionate enough about the development of young players to push for a meeting with the FA to put forward some suggestions. "I'm not interested in creating any publicity. I would rather slip under the radar and just be involved and learn, find out what they are doing and say, 'These are my ideas, what do you think?'"
He believes that the FA could be far more proactive. "Most players leave the game and decide they don't want to coach. That's a massive waste of knowledge and it also affects our future national team. Yet it could be so easily remedied—and that's what I want to draw attention to. I don't believe in telling anyone what they should do, all that bollocks about 'Foot-ball has been good to you and it's time to give something back'. If you want to live on an island, do that. But if you want to help, the FA should be dragging you in.
"They should be listening to any top-level player who wants to offer anything. I don't think a lot of players feel that opportunity is there for them. You can't just roll up to the FA and say: 'I'm here, what do you want me to do?' But there needs to be something where the FA says, 'This is for ex-players. Where you are living it would be a massive benefit if you did a little bit of coaching'."
Kitson would like to speak to Steve Coppell about his wider views on the game but he accepts that is impossible because the Reading manager must remain detached from the players. His team-mates ought to be an easier option but he admits to "frustrations" when trying to strike up conversation with people who do not share the same interests. "I'm not particularly good at communicating with them and talking to them because I just find I have nothing in common."
"It's difficult to be different," he continued. "People think you're arrogant because you don't entertain the usual, 'shag anything that moves'—but I hate all that. If one of the lads has a new watch I'll try it on and then say, 'have it back'. If someone's got a new car, I might have a lttle sit in it, but I could never draw attention to myself unnecessarily. Why do people want to do that—to be a showman? It's on the pitch where I want to stand out from everyone."
Dave Kitson-A True Professional.
* I would like to thank Stuart James from The Guardian for sharing this piece with us. Link here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2007/dec/29/newsstory.reading *