John Hartson

111 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   July 13, 2009  |     26

That retirement comes at such a young age is one of the curious contradictions of football. No sooner has a professional player reached his prime than he is sliding down the other side of his career arc. The overwhelming majority vanish quietly into the distance to retrain as sports scientists, run pubs, or do any one of a myriad of other jobs out of necessity after the end of their playing careers. Thirtysomething men are suddenly cast as rookies again as they start their managerial careers in earnest. Relatively young men, thanks to the over-exposure of the media, seem older than they are.

All of which brings us, albeit in a slightly roundabout way, to the terrible diagnosis that has befallen John Hartson. Hartson had what could be described as a typical top flight career. He started at Luton Town, before a big money move to Arsenal that never quite worked out. West Ham United, Wimbledon and Coventry City all followed, but it was a move to Celtic that finally allowed him to find himself as a player and eighty-nine goals in less than one hundred and fifty matches followed over a five year period. A brief return to England followed, with his playing career closing after short spells at West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City before retiring as a player last summer at the age of thirty-three. In addition to this, he made over fifty appearances for Wales.

The green shoots of a career in the media has been starting to blossom for him. He was a regular guest on Setanta Sports last season and has also been on seen on “Sgorio”, the Welsh language football programme on S4C, as well as occasionally on the BBC. Hartson’s diagnosis with testicular cancer which has spread to the brain sounds horrifying, but the survival rates for both forms of the disease are high if caught early enough. In the case of the cyclist Lance Armstrong, testicular cancer had spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain, yet he survived. Hartson is a young, fit man. He faces many months of difficult, uncomfortable treatment, but the sensationalist headlines in the press mask the fact that, until we know better, his condition is treatable.

As much as we can say from here is to wish him all the best, and it is worth pausing a moment from the artificially created world of football “news” to consider that sometimes the real world butts in and reminds us of what is truly important. This can be a cruel world at times, but the only thing that Hartson can do with his diagnosis – as we would all have to do in his position – is face it down and see it off. It should go without saying that the words of support for John Hartson – always a player to divide opinion both on and off the pitch during his playing career – should be unanimous, as they have been so far. There is still plenty of time for him to see through his ultimate aim of a career in management.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • July 20, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    dave liverpool fan

    hope you beat this horrible disease good luck keep your chin up mate,thinking of your family too.

  • July 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    mandie cfc

    thinking of you and your family.beat it john you know you can pal xxxx

  • July 20, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    mandie cfc

    thinking of you and your family.beat it big man! you know you can pal xxxx

  • July 20, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    bobby efc

    thinking of you and your brave family get well soon john (you will beat this john)

  • July 20, 2009 at 11:44 pm


    i wish you all the prayers in the world . big john you played proper football strong tackles tackle this and kick it out of you see you soon big man when your well again god bless

  • July 23, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Andrew Scott

    Wishing John all the best in his fight and thinking of his family. A genuine guy, great player and a flagship for his country and sport.

  • July 31, 2009 at 12:41 pm


    Wishing you and yours all the best big man – an honest player and good guy.

  • September 12, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Alan Morrison

    Hope You Get Well soon
    this brings the bitter devide in glasgow together

  • September 14, 2009 at 11:55 pm


    Big John
    I was in Seville with you and the bhoys. We know what you are made of big man – “gawn yer sel” and pull through!

  • September 28, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    chris phillips rugby league fan

    My thoughts are with both you and your family, people who help raise cancer awarness should be knighted long line Big john and Steven Prescot.

  • December 5, 2009 at 5:25 am


    john,hope the good news keeps on getting better loved ya when ya kept the hammers in the top flight,and i’m delighted youre getting better,just look after yourself and love your family they will pull you threw,stay strong,andy-toronto

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