John Hartson

111 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   July 13, 2009  |     27

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 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Tony Ross Celtic Fan

    To John and his Family,
    Big Man,Battle this like you Battled for the Celtic..Your strong’ve got a chance..! Thoughs and prayers with you & your family. see you soon big Man, You’ll Never Walk Alone John x

  • July 17, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    kevan hendren

    your in our harts your in our souls big john , if ever anybody was up to the fight its you big john, all the celtic family all over the world are united in prayer for you , god bless you big man a true timalloy

  • July 17, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Glentoran Fan

    I met the big man in Belfast City Airport back in 2004. He was so down-to-earth and was very happy to stand and chat for a while. Needless to say, I was deeply saddened to hear of John’s plight.

    I wish you all the very best in your fight against this, John. You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers, big man.

  • July 17, 2009 at 7:04 pm


    John on behalf of all celtic fans here in Derry and indeed the 32 counties of Ireland i wish to extend our sincere best wishes to you at this very difficult time,we hope and pray that you make a full recovery. keep the celtic fighting spirit alive john and never ever give up. god bless ya big man!

  • July 17, 2009 at 7:48 pm


    our thoughts and prayers are with you big man from all at barnsley fc

  • July 17, 2009 at 7:57 pm


    Im a Rangers fan, but that means nothing in relation to what John is going through. He was an exciting footballer to watch, a pain in the butt to read his columns in the papers, and annoying to listen to on the TV but thats probably what he was trying to achieve. I wish him all the best in his recovery, and Im absolutely certain he will beat this terrible disease which he has done nothing to deserve!!! Come on John, keep yer heid doon and you will be fine big man !

  • July 17, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Wazza T Ossett

    Keep battling John..Top player Top bloke…Pure warrior

  • July 17, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    rab celtic fc number1

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

  • July 17, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    big admirer

    thinking of big john and his family at this very difficult time. com’on big boy xx

  • July 17, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Derrick Scholey

    Sheffield Wednesday fan
    You gave everything on the field. Pray that you have the strength to win this battle.

  • July 17, 2009 at 9:50 pm


    hi big lad . i also had testicular cancer that spread to my lungs and heading for my brain . iam still here 8 years later and not a lump in sight . you will be ok . i found great faith in st jude . please pray to him and you WILL be ok . good luck for the feture it will be a long one

  • July 17, 2009 at 10:05 pm


    Good luck to you John. You’re big enough and strong enough (and you’ve got love enough from folk around ya) to see this off. Take care x

  • July 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Andy g

    Thanks for all the memories as a legendary hoops striker,we have had many imposters over the years who think they are above the fans but you have always treated us with respect,along with the goals in vigo and anfield and the many against rangers you have raised the standard as a footballer and a man! Thankyou and looking forward to you fulfilling your ambitions in the future after you bully this illness like you did with defences all over europe and send it off in defeat big man! YNWA BBJ

  • July 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    well wisher k/k

    God bless and give you strength-
    Your not walking alone..

  • July 18, 2009 at 12:38 am


    good luck big man i know you will fight this and beat it Y.N.W.A every decent football fan out there is 100% behind you and a big thanks for that goal in liverpool had such a great night that night

  • July 18, 2009 at 1:56 am



    I am a ‘true blue’ and have searched high and low to leave a message. Fight a brave fight and pull through to the other side for the sake of your young family. All the very best JH – although you had me cursing in frustration as a Rangers supporter, those times belong in the past as I wish you well. God Speed.

  • July 18, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Lee E. LTFC

    Good luck john my thoughts
    are with you and your family

  • July 18, 2009 at 8:15 am

    J & L Mason

    All the best BBJ. You can do this, we are all praying for you.

  • July 18, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Andy Gee

    As a Celtic fan it was devastating to hear of Big John’s illness. Hope he gets well in the future.

  • July 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

    lee spurs fan

    Thoughts with you and your family fight it all the way you can beat it.

  • July 18, 2009 at 10:10 am



  • July 18, 2009 at 10:20 am


    John you never let your head down when you played for the hoops. You always gave it your all 110%. This might be your biggest battle yet but you can win it. Thinking of you and your family and you are in my prayers.Go on John you can do it.

  • July 18, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Gibbo & Family (LTFC)

    Good Luck to you John and your family. Our thoughts are with you all

  • July 18, 2009 at 12:05 pm


    My thoughts are with John and his family, best of luck in your battle against this. Everyone is wishing you a speedy recovery.

  • July 18, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Rangers Al

    Good luck big man, keep fighting and I wish you and your family the best. Great player and good TV pundit.

  • July 18, 2009 at 1:39 pm


    Hope you get well soon John. I almost feel obliged to mention I’m a Rangers fan to add some weight to my comment, but just as a human being, all alegiances aside, you seem a decent gentleman and I hope you beat this.

  • July 18, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    michael kelly

    big john!! hope you get well soon big man,great memories of you at celtic park and thanks for taking the time to come to the newlodge rd, belfast, to the kids youth club. when i say “time”, it was in your own time, thinkin about others and not yourself, the type of guy you are, thanks again johnny.

  • July 18, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Liz B

    Get well soon John. Thinking of you and your family every day and just know you have the fight in you to beat this thing.

  • July 18, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    CCFC 4 Eva

    John, as my name states i’m a Bluebird through and through!! But football rivalries go out of the window at this time, you were as proud a Welshman as could have been, and i loved watching in the red of Wales!! C’mon big man you can get through this!!

    Cardiff City fan

  • July 18, 2009 at 5:37 pm



  • July 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm


    john hartson,you,ll never walk alone,even here in rotterdam [netherlands] we want to give you some support good luck mate,from swoop a feyenoordsupporter

  • July 18, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    rabbie CFC

    god bless u big man we know u can beat this evil ,like stubbs did our prayers are with u and your family good luck future i know it will be a long one.(y n w a )

  • July 18, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    alan wylie

    thinking about you big man ave lit a candle every nite and hope to blow it out soon when a now you will be ok

  • July 18, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Emma Dickins

    Thinking and praying for John at this terrible time. He always showed a strength of character when playing football and hopefully this will carry on with this battle!

  • July 18, 2009 at 6:25 pm


    get well sOon big man hail hail !! lOve catherine xXx

  • July 18, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    bill logan

    John I first saw you as a YTS boy at Luton when you were known as Shaggy and played on the wing, all those years later I saw you play for my beloved Celic, hope you fight this battle as you fought and succeeded in being a top footballer

  • July 18, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Cheltenham Red

    All the best big John in your fight against this terrible disease.It will be a long hard battle but if anyone can do it i am sure you can for the sake of your lovely family.

    Thoughts and prayers of all my family are with you.

  • July 18, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Huw Davies

    Paid a becso John bach. Ro’n i’n 34 oed, yn dad i 3 o blant a cael “testicular cancer”. Snap! Dim lot o wallt chwaith! Fi’n 51 nawr. Nid yw’r tumor (na’r gwallt) wedi tyfi nol!
    Diolch am y goliau a’r hwyl.

  • July 19, 2009 at 1:59 am

    bongo livi punk

    bbj you were f..king great that goal u scored liverpool …… and i love the pool all the best and god bless

  • July 19, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Julie Mackeddie

    All the best John to you and your family, God speed a happy and long recovery and many thanks to all the Rangers supporters for their good wishes, we should all stick together at this hard times. We are praying for you and your family. Hail Hail xxx

  • July 19, 2009 at 10:04 am

    joseph doyle

    As a life long Celtic fan I have seen many great players and Big John was one of them who fought so many great battle,s for us now its time to fight another and with the prayers and thoughts of us all I hope and pray you will win this battle. God Bless.

  • July 19, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Gooner Girl

    John, so sad to hear of your illness, and praying for you on the long road ahead. Very best wishes and God’s blessings on you and your family.

  • July 19, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    wee courtney smart CFC

    hope u get better soon love to you and all your family

  • July 19, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    liz b (c f c )

    praying for you and your family at this hard time john your a big strong gui and i know you can beats god bless big man

  • July 19, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    liz b (c f c )

    praying for you and your family at this hard time john your a big strong gui and i know you can beats god bless big man

  • July 19, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Kev CFC

    all the best bigman we all know you can do it, youll never walk alone

  • July 20, 2009 at 12:05 am


    I wish you all the best in your recovery. Because that is what the next few months will be. You are fighter an i am sure you will attack this in the same vain as you did in your football career. Let me just say as a Leeds United fan that i hope all football fans are praying for a true gent.

  • July 20, 2009 at 12:25 am

    mike cheadle man city

    i really hope you can win this battle like you won so many against big centre halfs !!

  • July 20, 2009 at 9:05 am

    gerry nelson

    Wishing you a speedy recovery big man. The thunderbolt against Liverpool is one goal I’ll never forget.

  • July 20, 2009 at 10:30 am


    you can fight this big man the same way you fought and beat all those centre halves over the years……. and its great to see messages from rivals such as the bluebirds and gers… something like this brings it all into perspective.

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