'Tal Ben Haim was a top man and misunderstood. No-one had a close relationship with Dave Kitson' - ex-Portsmouth team-mate reveals truth about controversial pair

Tal Ben Haim was misunderstood and Dave Kitson lacked close relationships in the Fratton Park dressing room.

Friday, 10th September 2021, 8:00 am
Luke Varney celebrates with Dave Kitson (right) Tal Ben Haim (left) after scoring in Pompey's 2-0 win over Barnsley in October 2011. Picture: Tony Marshall

That’s the opinion of Luke Varney on the Pompey pair who emerged as unpopular figures during the battle against liquidation in the summer of 2012.

Following relegation to League One, administrator Trevor Birch sold off Jason Pearce, Stephen Henderson, Joel Ward and Hayden Mullins to aid the financially-stricken club.

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Their number consisted of Varney, David Norris, Greg Halford, Erik Huseklepp, Kanu, Liam Lawrence, Kitson and Ben Haim.

And Kitson and Ben Haim, in particular, became the object of much supporter criticism during those pivotal contract negotiations.

Varney The News: ‘I liked Ben Haim, I thought he was a top man, I must admit.

‘He played at a great level, I can’t really say anyone would have a bad word about him in the dressing room.

Luke Varney on the attack against Bristol City at Fratton Park. Picture: Allan Hutchings

‘Although he did have a switch in him if something wasn’t quite right, which is probably because of the level of clubs he had been at.

‘I remember that pre-season tour to America in 2011. You say you learn something every day, well we had run out of sun cream and he was rubbing Corona lager on his arms!

‘He doesn’t drink, but was using it to blot out the sun. That’s brilliant, it’s Mexican and apparently good for the skin.

‘He was a good player as well, if only we could have got the best out of him.

Luke Varney's final Pompey match was a last-day defeat at Nottingham Forest in April 2012, with the Blues already relegated from the Championship. Picture: Allan Hutchings

‘Maybe he was misunderstood, he just knew that he wasn’t going to get another contract like that, he was never going to get the money he was on.

‘Unfortunately the club gave him that contract. It’s a tough one, we all understood his situation, but Pompey couldn’t pay that sort of money out over the next couple of years.

‘Some of us who left went to another club, who basically took over our Pompey contract in terms of length and some of the wages.

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‘There were others who wanted their full contract paid up. Tal and Kits know they couldn’t get that money elsewhere.’

Varney and Norris would join Leeds, while Greg Halford (Nottingham Forest) and Erik Huseklepp (Brann) also found themselves other clubs.

The remaining four – Kanu, Kitson, Ben Haim and Lawrence – had their contracts cancelled by mutual consent, staving off the liquidation threat.

Ben Haim has never been back to Fratton Park since, while Kitson was given an uncomfortable reception whenever his path subsequently crossed the Blues.

Varney added: ‘Kits was really dry, he sort of kept himself to himself, I’ve not really spoken to him since.

‘No-one had a really close relationship with him. He would walk in every day reading the Telegraph. He was a clever chap and kept himself to himself.

‘Kits is a strong-minded fella and I can imagine it was tough negotiating with him.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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