Millwall player profile – Barry Kitchener (1966-1982)

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Harry Cripps. Terry Hurlock. Neil Harris. Tim Cahill. Stefan Maierhofer.

The above names are all legends in their own right (quite obviously I'm joking with the last one – no calls of complaint to NAD Towers, please), but this week’s player profile is dedicated to perhaps the biggest of them all.

Born in Dagenham and after joining the club from West Ham United, Barry Kitchener rose through the youth ranks at The Den in the 1960s before making his first team debut on February 11, 1967 against Birmingham City in a 2-0 defeat.

Before he left Millwall in 1982, 'Kitch' became Millwall's record appearance holder with 602, a milestone that still stands today. He won the Player of the Year crown twice, and also had a stint a caretaker manager. Even after his death, the defender’s legacy lives on – in a service at The Den in April 2012, the West Stand was re-named The Barry Kitchener Stand.

Many Lions fans cite Kitchener as their greatest Millwall player of all time – with good reason, too.

Cut the man in half and he would bleed blue and white. No challenge was shirked and no responsibility was passed to someone else. Kitchener possessed in abundance every single quality that Millwall fans around the world want in their heroes. A warrior and a leader, the defender was the sort of person that you'd love to go to war with.

After nine years as a Second Division footballer – a period that also saw the likes of Derek Possee, Keith Weller and Eamon Dunphy come to the fore – the Lions suffered relegation to the third tier in 1974-75. However, their stay in the doldrums would only last the one season, as, led by Kitchener, Gordon Jago's men won an instant return to the second tier, courtesy of a third-place finish.

The towering centre-half won his first Player of the Year trophy that season and doubled his tally three years later, despite the Lions suffering relegation to Division Three once more.

In the summer of 1979, Kitchener joined Tampa Bay Rowdies on loan, playing away from The Den for the only time in his career.

By the early 1980s, the wear and tear of a decade and a half in the professional game began to catch up with the defender. Tony Tagg and Sam Allardyce's inclusion in the side at his expense made Kitch question his future in the game.

At the end of the 1981-82 season, in which the Lions finished ninth in Division Three, Kitchener hung up his boots. His last game was a 2-1 defeat at Plymouth Argyle in the final game of the season.

After moving into coaching, the sacking of Peter Anderson later that year led many to clamour for Kitch to take over as the manager of the club. The former defender took over on a caretaker basis, before George Graham was made Millwall's next permanent manager.

Shortly after that, Kitchener ended his involvement in the game. But he remained a regular visitor to The Den, despite moving to Norfolk.

In 2007, Millwall nominated him as their selection in the newly created Professional Footballers' Association Hall of Fame, which was set up to mark their centenary year.

On March 30, 2012, after a short battle with throat cancer, Kitchener sadly passed away.

602 appearances, 28 goals, all for the same club. Quite the statistic.

Barry Kitchener – forever missed, never forgotten.

Mark Litchfield

(@IAmTheLitch)