I never even considered for a minute that I’d be in this position.  Here I am, 23 years later, having signed for Cambridge United as a 21 year old, propping up the Hall of Fame Wall at both Cambridge United and Reading FC.  I guess I did something right, even if a few people got caught in the crossfire.

Two of my former teams meet at the MadStad on Saturday and it won’t surprise you to hear that I have happy memories of my time at both clubs.

I could write a trilogy on my time at Cambridge United, and an odyssey on my time with Reading.  In the interests of a condensed version for this column, I’ll blurt out some highlights.

When I arrived at Reading, Steve Coppell wanted to signed Adam Tann, a young England under-18 centre-half that I played with at Cambridge.  I instead tried to sell him my mate Shane Tudor, an excellent winger that I made the mistake of saying was a bit like Scott Murray, who Coppell didn’t rate.  Unsurprisingly, Shane was never signed, although Tanny did have a week-long trial with Reading having overcome testicular cancer.  He stayed at my house and made himself useful catching spiders.

All of this came on the back of a match at The Abbey Stadium that saw the U’s and the Royals draw 2-2.  I’d scored in that game and I remember crashing into the changing room at full time as a know-nothing striker that had just seen his team squander a two-goal lead and demanding the club ‘sign some f*****g defenders!’

It was not a good look for a young kid barely out of non-league, even if it did sow the seeds for the type of personality I would develop at Reading:  Do it right or leave.

After home games, Shane and I would drive back to Ely in a grey Ford Fiesta that we’d bought and nicknamed ‘the love bubble’.  Don’t ask.

We’d always stick the local radio station on and listen to the subsequent phone-in.  One woman piqued our interest.  “I want to talk to you about your so-called number 9, Dave Kitson… he swore at us!”

An irate lady heading back to Berkshire had rung BBC Cambridgeshire to complain that I’d stuck two fingers up at the Reading fans.  Evidently, she had mistaken my goading of the 2-0 scoreline for outright abuse.  People still bloody ask me about this!

After I left Cambridge, the Chairman took to the pitch to explain why he’d promised the fans that I wouldn’t be sold if they raised a certain amount of money to plug a gap in the clubs' finances in the wake of the ITV digital collapse, a football subscription service showing EFL games.  

The fans raised the money through buckets passed around the stands and a week later I was promptly sold.  I wasn't there to see it, but I was told that the Chairman had to be led from the pitch for his own safety through a hail of missiles and chants calling for his resignation.

I’ve been back to both clubs since I retired.  I’ve even played at Cambridge in a couple of charity matches.  I have a huge soft spot for the club and the City and could easily have settled down there had I arrived at the Abbey Stadium later in life.  

In fact, I offered to help the club in an ambassadorial role, free of charge of course, but the appointment to the board of directors of the brilliant Dion Dublin rendered me quite rightly surplus to requirements.  At least, that’s what I choose to believe to make myself feel better.

Nonetheless, I keep a close eye on the progress of both clubs, and it’s interesting to study their trajectories over the last twenty-odd years.  The mismanagement at Reading continues to find new and interesting ways to reveal itself.  

For example, at the end of the 2006/07 season, Reading and Cambridge were separated by 101 places, Reading having finished 8th in their debut Premier League season and Cambridge having slipped into the Conference (National League).  

Before Tuesday evening’s fixtures, that gap was down to one place, with the two sides separated only on goal difference.  And if you want to be particularly alarmist, Cambridge are carrying a game in hand.

Who knows where it will all end up. Twenty years from now we could be watching Cambridge United in the Premier League with their new stadium and brand new training ground and remembering ‘the good old days’ when Reading enjoyed all of that and more.  And we might even be watching it from a hotel or country club in Bearwood where once there stood a proud football club.


The rumours are true that I am coming out of retirement! I've signed for Reading Sunday League club Caversham United and make my debut for them at Mapledurham Playing Fields a week on Sunday (March 24) against local rivals Rose & Thistle (kick-off 10.30am), as part of Sunday League Day and to help them raise money for charity. Feel free to come along and have a laugh if you want to see an ex pro try to relive past glories!


The Dave Kitson Academy is arranging a group coaching session for 7-11-year-olds at the end of March, priced at just £20. If you are interested in booking your son or daughter in, please email mark@davekitsonacademy.co.uk