DAVE Kitson, the Sheffield United striker, has admitted today’s return to former club Reading will be an emotional experience after revealing he still bears the mental scars of their relegation from the Premier League five years ago.
Kitson, who last night drew parallels between life at Bramall Lane and the Madejski Stadium, was a member of the squad which slipped out of the top-flight following a dramatic end to the season in 2008.
Describing the sight of close friends and colleagues losing their jobs as a result, Kitson said: “It affected me very deeply at the time and still does to this day. I nearly lost everything over that.
“We were very tight knit behind the scenes - players, staff, kit men and cooks - we knew some people would lose their jobs if we didn’t stay up.
“There we were, turning-up for training in our nice cars and watching people carrying out their belongings in a box. Thinking ‘I’m responsible for that’ felt horrible.”
Despite joining United on a free transfer earlier this term, Kitson regularly attends Reading home games with his eldest son.
“It’s funny because it’s only when you watch the draw that you realise how many people you’ve upset in football,” Kitson said. “But my phone went mad when we were paired with Reading.
“The first person to text was (manager) Brian (McDermott). He wrote ‘Welcome Home.’”
Kitson, confirmed before today’s FA Cup fourth round tie that McDermott, who restored Reading’s Premier League status three years after taking charge, was responsible for engineering his move from Cambridge United to Berkshire in 2003.
“Cardiff were interested but basically it came down to Reading and Rotherham. I owe so much to Brian because he was scouting at the time and persuaded Steve Coppell, who was the manager then, to take me ahead of some other options.”
Kitson, making no attempt to disguise his admiration for McDermott, acknowledged he holds Wilson and United in the same high-regard.
“Danny, for me, has been fantastic,” Kitson said. “I don’t need someone to tell me when I’ve played well and I don’t need someone to tell me when I’ve played badly so he just leaves me alone.
“Here, it mirrors Reading because there are so many genuine people behind the scenes that you want to play for and don’t want to let down.”