John Hartson

111 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   July 13, 2009  |     21

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 13, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Gervillian Swike

    Spot on. He did a few spots on Talk Sport last year too, and was all at once knowledgeable, honest and likeable. I met him once, in a nightclub, I was on a stag night and was probably the 400th person that night to slur an invite for a drink to him. Far from being the boorish pot-plant kicking lout that he was portrayed as at the time, he was friendly and polite, not just detached and wary but seemingly seeing the funny side of it all. I wish him a really speedy recovery.

  • July 14, 2009 at 10:34 am


    I hope you give the cancer the same battle you gave opposition defenders when playing for us in 1999-2001 Big John.

  • July 14, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    luton town fan

    john all football fans r think of u at this sad time.get well soon john

  • July 15, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Joanne Hall

    Hope you make a full recovery John, will be thinking of you

  • July 15, 2009 at 1:27 pm


    Good article, just wish the rest of the media world took note. there quick to right him off!! As a west ham fan, growing up, the late nineties provided us with Mr Hartson and his “typical number 9″ style. I visited the training ground as an over excited kid in the summer holidays and what a top bloke, he took us inside as it was raining and gave us all autographed photos and answered questions as if it was no bother, when all the other players couldnt wait to get in there motors. Get well john, if you battle this like you did sol campbell that night against the spurs you will have no bother!

  • July 15, 2009 at 3:47 pm


    All the best John, thinking of you at this trying time. Keep battling!!
    West Bromwich Albion Fan

  • July 15, 2009 at 4:01 pm


    John all the thoughts of Celtic fans from Derry are with you.
    We all know your strong,
    You will win this battle
    God bless
    Get well soon we’re all thinking on you

  • July 15, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Carol wolves f(an)

    Thinking of you and your family at this time John if anyone can fight this horrible illnes you can
    God bless

  • July 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    gers fan

    Loved to hate you when you played with the ‘tic but….hey… that only cos you were good !
    You can beat this. Good luck

  • July 15, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Jean W.B.A. fan

    All the best Big John, Good luck,you will beat this, like you beat up the opposition

  • July 15, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    CFC Glos

    Legend to the sport! hope you make a full recovery

  • July 15, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    CFC Glos

    also nice comment from gers fan. nice to put the rivalry aside and appreciate a great player

  • July 15, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Dave Fife Gers fan

    As a player you gave over 100%.I hope your recovery is the same.Good luck m8,all the best.

  • July 15, 2009 at 11:35 pm


    Even though Arsene got rid of him pretty sharpish, the fella has continued to praise us and indeed back us when the media world have been on our backs. The fella is a legend, and I have also had the pleasure of meeting him when he went to West Ham and he still had nothing but praise for The Arsenal. We are all thinking of you John.

  • July 16, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Mike Plant(Albion Fan)

    To John and his family

    My thoughts are with you .Keep fighting John.Best wishes from all Albion fans ,may the force be with you.

  • July 16, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Ingram (Celtic Fan)

    To John,

    Pure Celtic Legend who fought for the Green and White Hoops and won over some many Tic fans with his heart and RANGERS goals.

    Best of luck in your latest fight big man.

  • July 16, 2009 at 10:07 am


    all the best big man YNWA.

  • July 16, 2009 at 10:16 am

    jo (west ham fan)

    wishing big John a speedy recovery loved him when he played for the hammers.

  • July 16, 2009 at 10:33 am


    John and Family

    Hey big man, the world needs guys like you, we will all fight this with you.

    football fan.

  • July 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Ann (Celtic Fan)

    Just arrived back from holiday to hear your awful news, have been praying for you since I heard. Keep your chin up John you can beat this. x

  • July 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Fighting Spirit

    Youll Never Walk Alone John . Stick in Big Man . Were all Praying for you

  • July 16, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Kay Wales/Cardiff Fan

    All of Wales has your back John “Cmon”
    God bless you and the family

  • July 16, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    tony elson

    I was lucky enough to spend an hour on a train with john last april,HE was both polite and freindly,A very down to earth man.I just want to wish him a full recovery and say you can beat this john .tony maritime chef

  • July 16, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    brian mcs

    You are a true gentle giant John,you have the strength and courage to beat this illness.You are in our hearts minds and prayers. God bless you.

  • July 16, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    John Thomson


  • July 16, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    mark williams

    big man you can beat this u are a fighter thinking of you….

    mark williams

  • July 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Phil Gooner

    You’ll make it through big John.
    Gooners are praying for you.

  • July 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Chris Cairns

    Get well soon big man the thoughts and prayers of my family and the whole Celtic family go out to you!!!

  • July 16, 2009 at 10:49 pm


    Get well soon ‘big bad john’ all celtic fans everywhere pray for your full recovery.Hail hail!

  • July 16, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Steve Roberts

    Keep fighting John, very best wishes to you and your family at this difficult time.
    Always remember you almost scoring against England, best save I ever saw live from Paul Robinson, it had to be from your header.
    Grimsby Town fan Steve

  • July 16, 2009 at 11:05 pm


    All the best John
    Legend of Welsh football

  • July 16, 2009 at 11:05 pm



  • July 16, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    David Douglas

    Hope you Pull through, battle like you use to on the pitch come on John!

  • July 16, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Captain Slog

    The Big C does not respect boundaries or rules and certainly does not play a fair game or hand. My thoughts go out to John and his family at this time.
    I pray that you pull through and get to inspire others.

    Captain Slog star date 16/07/09

  • July 17, 2009 at 12:07 am


    get well soon big man see you at paradise soon all our love and support at the celtic family

  • July 17, 2009 at 2:15 am

    Celtic fan

    Big man you can pull through this!
    My thoughts and prayers are with you
    The larrson and hartson partnership up front….unstoppable!

  • July 17, 2009 at 8:21 am


    Praying for you and your family.
    If anyone can beat this John, you can!

  • July 17, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Pompey Chris

    Get well soon big man, my thought are with you and your family

  • July 17, 2009 at 9:44 am


    im a swansea man also met john in swansea, and a avid swansea city fan like john and also follow the gunners were john was at his best, i wish john my best wishes and luck to battle this horrid best wishes to his family.

  • July 17, 2009 at 10:07 am

    steve lang

    you can beat it john big strong lad come on fight it m8 ur not a quiter all my strength is with you god bless u

  • July 17, 2009 at 11:21 am


    Get well soon john you were a top footballer and equally a top bloke my thoughts are with you and your family wishing you a
    speedy recovery
    villa fan duncan

  • July 17, 2009 at 12:17 pm


    praying for you big feller,you were a fighter on the pitch and you can fight this.god bless.shaun portsmouth fc.

  • July 17, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Jonathan Bowden

    Such a sad story,And all happening so fast,As a Man City fan i never had the pleasure of having John play for us but i have always been an admirer of his,And i’m sure he will be remembered up at Celtic with the clubs legends of the past in years to come,Get well soon John

  • July 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm



  • July 17, 2009 at 1:49 pm


    yep very sad news indeed, John is old school and a regular guy, I really hope he pulls through, it is nice to see the kind comments across the football divide

  • July 17, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    celtic fan kilrea

    met u at celtic dinner in belfast 3 years ago gentle giant of a man wishing u all the best big man no u will beat it

  • July 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Ashley Burge

    Big John, a true legend of Welsh Football, I have no doubt you’ll pull through this, if anyone can beat this horrific illness then it’s you bigman.

    You’ve been an inspiration throughout your career, a true professional and a top bloke. Get well soon and we’ll be seeing that big frame on our screens once again very soon.

  • July 17, 2009 at 3:00 pm


    You can get through this John!
    My thoughts and prayers r with you.
    You were amazing at celtic, just keep thinking about all the good times and, you’ll pull through this

  • July 17, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Sally Garside

    To All the Hartson Family

    Sending my love and prayers to you all at this difficult time, I used to work with brother James at Kennington, so my thoughts are very much with you now

  • July 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Hammer Always

    All the best, John. You can do it.

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