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The Gordon Hill column: Farewell Barry Kitchener, friend and Millwall legend

Millwall legend Barry Kitchener has died aged 64.

This has been a sad day for me, with the news of another one of my fellow players and a true gentleman passing on, Big Kitch the gentle giant as he was know, our centre half for Millwall.

I was so devastated to hear the news. It was only two weeks ago that I was getting his email address from a friend to drop him a line and say hello and catch up. Kitch, I am so sorry I did not get it earlier, rest in peace my friend.

We have not only lost him but we lost another good Millwall player and close friend only last year, Brian Clark. So, to everyone reading this, remember life is so short - enjoy your life because you are not here forever.

To me big Kitch was Millwall through and through. From the age of 16 he went on to make over 602 appearances and that is still a record.

A true professional

I have got together a few facts from friends who cared about Kitch. I have spoken to a couple of other former players and this is what one of them, Derek Smethurst, had to say: "Big Kitch was a true professional from the old school who would run through a brick wall for you and would always be there to back you up. That was on the field, off the field he was the nicest man you could want to meet and would do anything for you. We are going to miss him"

He signed for the Lions as a 16-year-old and played at left-back in the youth and reserve teams before making the transition to the first team in 1967.

He was converted into a centre-half to take place of Bryan Snowdon upon his retirement and made the number five shirt his own before hanging up his boots in 1982.

He then coached the youth team and the reserves, as well as looking after the first team for six matches before the arrival of George Graham in 1982.

A statement from the club on its official website said: "He was a legend in every sense of the word, a great player, a true sportsman and a wonderful man. He will be truly missed by everyone associated with Millwall."

'His dreams came true'

The devastated family of the former Millwall club captain added: "We would like to thank Millwall for making his dreams come true and to all their fantastic supporters for all the love they have shown him over the years. We would appreciate privacy at this time to try and come to terms with losing an unbelievable husband, dad and granddad."

The Millwall players wore a white kit with black armbands at Cardiff on Saturday.

My experiences with the big man was that on the field he gave you everything, he was robust, hard and there was no mucking about. Off the field he was a true gentleman.

I would like to share a story with you about how Kitch helped me, back in the 72/73 season, when there was a shortage of sugar, and petrol.

I went training one day and all the country was suffering, but as I was about to leave the ground big Kitch turned to me and asked if I needed anything.

I replied yes, petrol and sugar. He said 'come with me' and then took me to the back of his car and had bags of sugar stacked up in the boot. He loaded my little car and then said go to this garage and tell him I sent you and fill up. I have never forgotten this.

I would just like to pass on my condolences to Hazel and his family and say to them it was a pleasure to have known him and even more of a pleasure to have played with him and to have been able to call him my friend.

By Gordon Hill

Gordon Hill was capped six times for England in the 1970s and made 132 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 51 goals. He scored both United goals in their 1976 FA Cup semi-final win against Derby and played in the Red Devils' 2-1 FA Cup final triumph against Liverpool in 1977.

He has played for Millwall, Derby, QPR and FC Twente, and managed Chester City and Hyde. He has also played in Finland, the USA and Canada where he managed the Novia Scotia Clippers in the Canadian Soccer League.

As a media commentator, Hill has worked with Sky Sports, BBC, ITV and Talk Radio. He lives with his wife Claire in McKinney, Texas, where he owns and runs Texas-based club United FC


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