'Still very real' - former Portsmouth and Stoke striker reveals drastic action he took to avoid Blues fans heading to Reading game this season

Dave Kitson featured 72 times for Pompey, scoring 12 goals
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Former Pompey striker Dave Kitson has revealed he and his 12-year-old son hid behind a parked car ‘for what felt like hours’ outside Reading Green Park station last October in order to avoid a potential run-in with Blues supporters.

The much-maligned former Fratton Park forward took the drastic action on the day of Pompey’s visit to the Select Car Leasing Stadium as he feared being confronted by members of the Fratton faithful still angry by his two-season spell on the south coast.

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Kitson was heading to London to fulfil Premier League media duties and didn’t attend the game between two of his former clubs, which John Mousinho’s side dramatically won 3-2. But he subsequently missed ‘train after train’ as the ex-Royals favourite and his son waited on travelling Blues supporters to exit the station.

Speaking in his column for the Reading Chronicle, the now 44-year-old distinguishable figure revealed: ‘I had only stopped in at the Select Car Leasing Stadium that day to wish happy birthday to a friend of a friend, I needed to leave before kick-off to catch the train to London to commentate on a Premier League game that evening.

‘It was all a bit tight from a timing point of view, but as long as I caught a particular train from Green Park it would all work out. But that never happened. Instead, I spent half an hour, missing train after train, hiding behind a parked car outside the new apartments on Green Park as hundreds of Pompey fans spewed out of Reading’s newest train station and up towards the stadium.

‘For those who don’t know, my time at Portsmouth was blighted by a chronic mental health breakdown and two club administrations that brought the club to the very brink of going out of existence.

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‘As one of the higher earners at the club, I became the focal point of the anger spilling down from the stands at Fratton Park, particularly when I took to the pitch looking anything like a footballer as I struggled to cope with my demons.

‘Believe me, the anger of the fans from that time is still very real in Portsmouth. After all, until the club returns to the Premier League, there will always be a perception among the faithful that they are still paying for the mistakes of the past. 

‘The thought of fronting it out by walking through hundreds of them is about as appealing as milking a cow without using my hands. As I often tell my kids, there is a subtle difference between being brave and being a complete idiot!

'So there we crouched, myself and my 12-year-old son for what felt like hours, the progress of the Pompey fans delayed by a brief snack raid on an unsuspecting Tesco Express opposite the station.’

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Following his move from Stoke in September 2010, Kitson featured 72 times for Pompey, scoring 12 goals. But the front man came in for some harsh criticism from the stands during his time at Fratton Park.

His performances were deemed by many as not up to scratch. Meanwhile, with the Blues on the brink of liquidation, an agreement to cancel the remaining year of his contract was only reached in August of 2012 – six months after the club went into administration for the second time in three seasons.

At the time, that was interpreted as proof that Kitson did not care about the club. Since then, the former Stoke and Sheffield United forward has revealed that he was suffering from clinical depression during his spell with the Blues and had, in fact, deliberately driven his car into the concrete pillar of a bridge as he struggled to cope at the time.

In a 2019 interview with World Football Index, Kitson revealed: ‘It was horrible. A really rough time to be a footballer and a fan of the club. The club was in administration when I signed, and also when I left.

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‘I did not play well there. I was also clinically depressed at the time and I got to the point where I had to say to the manager, “look, I can’t even be on the pitch let alone kick a ball properly”.

'I was making myself look silly and the manager Steve Cotterill – who was great with me – realised that I was not right and that mentally I was going further down the rabbit hole.

‘I think the fans took my mental illness as a sign that I did not care about their club, because that’s how it looked when I played.

‘The truth is that I was in no condition to play football at all and their boos, catcalls and abuse simply made it worse.

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‘But they didn’t know. It was not an easy situation for anybody given what was happening at the club. I wanted to do well for Portsmouth FC as did all the players.’

Pompey and Reading go head-to-head again On Saturday, when Reading are the visitors at Fratton.

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