DAVE Kitson has called time on his career after agreeing to leave Oxford United by mutual consent.
The legal loose ends were tied up last night to confirm the final season of the 34-year-old’s contract would be scrapped.
It brought an end to 13 years as a professional, clocking up almost 500 appearances and close to 150 goals.
While the decision was not a surprise after Kitson openly wondered if last season would turn out to be his last, the timing - three weeks into pre-season - was unexpected.
The forward featured in the U’s first two games, but finally reached a conclusion last week and missed the 1-0 win at Didcot Town on Saturday.
Head coach Michael Appleton said at the time the veteran had been given the weekend off to recover from a tough week’s training, but has now paid tribute to United’s No 8.
He said: “Dave came to me on Friday and told me that he would like to retire.
“I asked him to take the weekend to think it over.
“It is a massive decision for any player and I felt he deserved a little time to weigh it all up.
“He came back to us over the weekend and told us that his mind was made up, and so we respect that decision and wish Dave all the best for the future.”
Retirement marks the end of a career which peaked with a five-year spell at Reading, where Kitson’s goals helped them into the Premier League.
His signing last summer was a coup for United, but halfway through the campaign he began to hint about not seeing out the full two-year contract.
Following the 2-0 win at Plymouth in April, which included the last of his 143 career goals, he said: “You have to look at the future.
“There are plenty of footballers I know that struggle to get out of bed in the morning and I don’t really want to be like that.”
There appeared to be a change of heart after the final day defeat at Northampton, when Kitson suggested he was leaning towards coming back.
But he also said: “I don’t want to be the old player on the pitch who is costing us.”
Kitson was unavailable for comment last night, but a desire to stay healthy would appear to be the reason behind the decision.
There was no doubt on his day last season the player who Stoke paid £5.5million for in 2008 was a huge asset to United.
But after an excellent start to life in League Two, the second half of his campaign was disrupted by persistent injuries and suspension.
While he returned after the summer break, the physical demands of pre-season followed by another nine months of grind may have been the final straw for someone with little to prove.
Although United will miss his class, if Kitson’s ability to play regularly was going to diminish this season, ending the contract a year early could prove beneficial for all parties.
It frees up a significant wage for Appleton to reinvest and bolstering a forward line which looks very light will now be his top priority.
Dave Kitson career statistics Hitchin Town (98-00) Arlesey Town (00-01) Cambridge Utd (01-03): 123 apps, 47 goals Reading (03-08): 147, 60 Stoke City (08-10): 40, 5 Reading (loan 09): 12, 2 Middlesbrough (loan 09-10): 6, 3 Portsmouth (10-12): 72, 12 Sheffield Utd (12-13): 37, 12 Oxford Utd (13-14): 36, 4 Total: 473 apps, 145 goals Latest United news:
- Oxford United sign striker Kane Hemmings from Dundee in six-figure move
- WATCH: Videos of Oxford United's new signing Kane Hemmings scoring for Dundee
- Oxford United set for double signing to boost firepower after friendly defeat by Brighton
- Oxford United's EFL Trophy group opponents include Chelsea and Swindon Town + POLL
- Oxford United 0, Brighton & Hove Albion 4 (Knockaert 17, Cadman 67, Hemed 76 & 85)