Q&A with Peter Kitchen

Fulham Focus’ Dannyboi spoke to Peter Kitchen about his time at Fulham. The striker had a frustrating spell at the club in the late seventies having made the move across London from Leyton Orient…

DB – Hello Peter, thanks for answering some questions about your Fulham days for us.

PK – Hi Daniel, no problem at all.

DB – How did you get the opportunity to become a footballer with Doncaster and how old were you?

PK – I signed for Doncaster Rovers, who were then in what is now, Division 1 in 1970, when I was 18 years old, after staying on at Mexborough Grammar school, 6th form college to complete my education. I left school with 3 ‘A’ Levels and 10 ‘O’ Levels and during that time, I had also played for both Yorkshire and England Senior schools X1. Whilst playing for Yorkshire Schools, I played 2 games at Doncaster’s Belle Vue ground, scoring 2 hat tricks and impressed the Rovers manager, Lawrie MacMenemy, who asked me to sign a professional contract. 

My intention had been to either go to University or look for a job as a News/ sports reporter, but when I was offered the chance to play football Professionally, I felt I had to give this a go first and I have never regretted that decision.

DB – How did the move to Fulham materialise and what made you want to leave Orient for Fulham?

PK – I was signed from Doncaster by Orient in June 1977, by then Manager George Petchey, but he was sacked after only 2 league games into the season and replaced by Jimmy Bloomfield, the ex Leicester City Manager. In my first season at the O’s, I was the Clubs and the Championships leading goal scorer with 29 goals, 7 of which were in the FA Cup, when I scored in every round on the way to the semi-finals, losing to Arsenal in the semi-final at Stamford Bridge. During the season, I won the Evening Standard and Daily Mirror Footballer of the month awards and was Orient’s Player of the Year. They also turned down offers of £140,000 and £145,000 from Norwich and Crystal Palace respectively, but Orient wouldn’t sell me, saying they were ambitious and wanted to try and get promotion the following season. I didn’t get on particularly well with Jimmy and I was critical of his tactics and the Clubs ambition and when, during the close season they sold both Glenn Roeder to QPR and Phil Hoadley to Norwich City, that convinced me that the O’s weren’t ambitious at all so I asked to be put on the transfer list. I was eventually sold to Fulham in Feb 1979 for £150,000 + a player exchange, so the deal was valued at about £175,000 and was a club record transfer fee, which stood for nearly 20 years until the Harrods owner, Al Fayed bought the club. Manager Bobby Campbell told me he wanted me to partner Chris Guthrie up front, as Gordon Davies was inexperienced and he had not yet started to score consistently and Campbell sold me the deal on that basis at Fulham, who were 6th in the league at that time and that they were good enough to get promotion, he wanted me to help them achieve this, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. 

DB – What was your highlight in a Fulham shirt?

PK – I can’t say there were any, I never really settled at Fulham and after initially having a reasonably good start, with 5 goals in the 17 games I played to the end of the 78/79 season, the promotion push petered out and Fulham finished 10th in the league, incidentally only 1 place above Orient who I had just left. It was purely a personality clash between myself and the Manager, I realised very quickly that Bobby Campbell was the sort of personality that I just could not work with or for and we never got on at all and I ended up very much regretting having made the move to Fulham. This was nothing to do with the Club, the staff or the fans and when I signed for Fulham, I honestly believed that I could help them to win promotion to the First Division, so I still feel sad that Fulham fans never saw the best of me. 

DB – Who did you get on with the best and who did you room with in hotels etc?

PK – I got on well with Chris Guthrie and also John Beck, in fact, Becky and myself used to share cars into training as I lived in Epping and he lived in Waltham Cross near Enfield, so it was a convenient arrangement, but the longer I stayed at Fulham I became somewhat isolated and a lot of players resented the fact that I was the highest paid player at the club, yet I wasn’t even getting a game in the first team. 

DB – Do you remember any of your goals for the club and is there one that stands out?

PK – The only one I recall, was the last one I scored, which was against Shrewsbury Town away, after not playing a first-team game for nearly 6 months, I was suddenly chosen for this game, the team lost 4-1, but I scored the Fulham goal. I later found out that I had only been selected, because the Cardiff City Management team were coming to watch me play and they bought me for £120,000, at the end of the season, in which Fulham were relegated.

DB – What was Bobby Campbell like as a manager?

PK – Quite simply, the worst Manager I ever played for and also the worst personality I ever came across in Football generally. In my opinion, he wasn’t a good coach and for me, he was the worst man manager I ever had the misfortune to play for in all my years in Football. At the start of the 79/80 season, I was injured in a pre-season friendly and subsequently missed the first 3-4 league games, Gordon Davies took my place in the team and had a very good start. However, he was still inexperienced and his goals dried up, whilst the first team were also struggling in the league and plummeted down the Championship table. Even when I was fit, Bobby Campbell just wouldn’t play me despite my form in the reserves, which the goal statistics will show, was an exceptional strike record. I was ostracised by Campbell and he just ignored me, hardly ever speaking and his behaviour was very similar to that of Jose Mourinho’s in his dealings towards Bastion Schweinsteiger at Man Utd at the start of last season. 

It appeared to be very personal and because I am a quiet and thoughtful person by nature, he would try and provoke me into losing my temper, often making derogatory comments about how much I was earning in front of some of the other players, or said ‘ that I thought I had arrived ‘ and that I wasn’t trying in training, which wasn’t true at all. I believe that he tried to mislead the fans/press by making statements that I wasn’t fit and/or still carrying injuries, which were untrue and appeared to be a blatant cover-up, so that no one would ask why he wasn’t playing the club’s record signing. The best example I can use to illustrate this was that in one week, the Fulham first team lost both their Saturday games; yet during that same week, I played against First Division West Ham reserves on the Saturday and I scored a hat-trick. On the Tuesday night against QPR reserves also in the First Div, I scored 2 goals and on the following Saturday we played Arsenal reserves and I scored another hat-trick, all these teams had a number of first-team players so were quality opposition, but even with 8 goals in a week, I still couldn’t even get a game on the subs bench and Fulham were bottom of the league at that time. During my season in the reserves, I scored over 30 goals, but I never got a look in the first team. It wasn’t just me either, he dealt with Peter Marinello in a similar way and then when he re-signed Teddy Maybank from Brighton, he dropped Chris Guthrie and he also treated him in the same way. Campbell never said a positive word about anything I ever did and I always felt he resented having paid so much for me. I was desperate to leave and it was a relief when I finally got a move to Cardiff City, where in my first season with them, 1980/81 I finished as their leading goal scorer with 19 goals. 

During the 79/80 season, I played only 4 first team games for Fulham all season and Fulham were relegated. It wasn’t until Campbell was sacked and Malcolm Macdonald took over, that Gordon Davies really established himself as a regular goalscorer and he went on to have a very good goal scoring record at Fulham and under Macdonald, the club was promoted back into the Championship. 

DB – Did Bobby explain what his plans were for you in the side? At the time we had Chris Guthrie and Gordon Davies who were quite a strong partnership so someone had to miss out. 

PK – As I said above, Gordon hadn’t yet established himself as a regular goalscorer and was only just breaking into the first team, so on the day I signed for Fulham, Campbell told me that his intention was to play myself and Guthrie up front because he told me that Gordon was still inexperienced ( or in Campbell’s own words to me ” Gordon had great potential but he was as green as a cabbage” ). I played in every game to the end of that season, scoring 5 goals in 17 games, but by the start of the following season, my relationship with Campbell had deteriorated and to this day, I never knew why. 

DB – You had a rotten time with injuries in your time here. How frustrating was this especially as the club were struggling at the time?

PK – As I said above, I was at Fulham for 18 months, but I only suffered one injury in all my time at the club. It was a twisted ankle ligament injury at the start of the 79/80 season, which kept me out of the first 3-4 games, but after that, I was fully fit all season. My injuries were a myth that Campbell appeared to create to cover up the situation between us and to justify why he wouldn’t play me despite the fact that the first team were struggling in the league, whilst I was banging goals in for the reserves, so you have to draw your own conclusions as to why I was never selected.

DB – Who were the strong personalities in the team? I’m referring to leaders and jokers mainly?

PK – There were a lot of ‘Flash Harry’s ‘ at Fulham at that time because Fulham had been in the Cup final only a few years earlier and as the oldest London Club and its location in West London, it was always seen as a fairly fashionable Football club. There were also quite a few younger players, so it was a very competitive environment and there was a lot of banter and mickey taking in the dressing room. Les Strong was a joker, Ray Evans was the captain and did a lot of talking as well as Richard Money and Tony Gale who were always full of banter. 

George Best had left the club the end of the previous season and was playing in the USA, but he lived in Putney, so whenever he was in the UK, he came and trained with us, but George was a quiet and sensitive person and usually kept himself to himself. 

DB – Do you still keep in touch with anyone from your spell at Fulham?

PK – No, I never really connected with anyone in particular and any friendships I developed whilst there were short-lived for just the time I was at the club. It’s sad but because my time at Fulham was so unhappy, I have never been back to Fulham since the day I left in Sept 1980, either to play or to watch a game. 

DB – When the results come in on match days which former club do you look for first and why?

PK – I look out for the results of all the teams I played for, but particularly Orient & Doncaster because I am still in touch with quite a few people at these clubs and have helped with several initiatives and promotional events there. I go to watch the O’s occasionally at home games each season and I am a club ambassador for their Walking Football initiative, which is now very popular. I am also the Patron of the O’s Somme memorial fund, which raised over £50,000 , culminating in a permanent War memorial built on the Somme battlefields at Flers, to honour the 41 players and staff of then, Clapton Orient, who were the first Professional footballers to enlist en masse into the army in December 1914, ironically at Fulham town hall and 3 of the players lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In 2016, I co-produced a successful play, telling the O’s WW1 story, which had a 4 week run at the Southwark Playhouse between Sept / October. 

I also attend Doncaster Rovers matches when they are playing away, in and around the London area and I was honoured recently by the Club, when I was inducted into their hall of fame. The Rovers supporters also voted me as one of their 6 best ever players since WW2 and the club erected a large photo of me behind the goals at their new Keepmote stadium. I am regarded as a Club Legend at both Doncaster and Orient and have bars named after me at their stadiums, as well as a Tower bock, ‘Kitchen Court’ at the corner of the Orient stadium. I am also well thought of at Cardiff City and take note of how they are doing and I do still check on Fulham’s results but it’s disappointing because I am certain that had I been treated fairly by the Manager at Fulham, that I would have been equally as successful there.

DB – Tell us about your book please Peter. What’s it about and how can Fulham fans purchase it?

PK – In 2006, a book was written about me by Neilson Kaufman, the Orient Club historian; it’s called ‘ The Goal Gourmet, the Peter Kitchen story’ charting my early years, my career in Football and also after I finished playing professionally in 1986, up to the present time. There are contributions from Managers and teammates and personal accounts of my time at all my clubs, there are some funny anecdotes as well as lots of pictures and a full statistical record of all my games and goals. The book was updated and reprinted in 2015 and is available from amazon.co.uk, and from the Club stores at both Leyton Orient and Doncaster Rovers and details of the book are on my website, www.thegoalgourmet.com

DB – What are you up to now? 

PK – I am retired, having taken early retirement in November 2009, from my Job as a Director of a Leisure Management Company, responsible for a number of Leisure, swimming and Fitness Centres and a Golf course. I have my coaching badge and coached with the Academy on a part-time basis for Wimbledon FC when they were in the Premiership from 1990 until 2001, Managing their Under 13’s – Under 15’s. I also continued playing almost every week until I was in my mid 50’s in Charity and Vets matches with the TV Commentators X1 ( Motty, Tyler, Rosenthal and Alan Parry), The Corinthian Casuals and with Rod Stewarts Vagabonds. 

I still keep fit and Cycle 15-20 miles, 3-4 days each week, I go skiing every year and I enjoy travelling at every opportunity. We have a holiday home in Spain near Malaga and a timeshare in Florida, so I go there regularly and also to other parts of the USA. My son lives in Japan and has 3 children, so I also travel quite a lot to the Far East and I drive regularly in Europe, including organising regular visits for friends to the WW1 Battlefields in Belgium and France. 

DB – Last but not least we end with our favourite question…….pie or pasty, which filling?

PK – Definitely Pies, Beef and onion, followed by Apple pie with Custard.

DB – Really appreciate the detail you’ve gone into for us Peter thanks again and sorry that your Fulham experience wasn’t a good one. 

PK – No problem