FORMER Millwall captain Les Briley has spoken of his shock at the death of Lions legend Barry Kitchener.
Kitchener passed away last Friday following a short battle with cancer, having been diagnosed just two weeks ago.
And Briley says the suddenness of the 64-year-old's passing has been brought into sharp focus by his final meeting with the club's record appearance holder less than a month ago.
"It was only four weeks ago that we opened a William Hill together," he said. "We were laughing and joking and having a chat like we normally did every time we got together.
"He was right as rain and he didn't show any signs of it. It just goes to show what a horrible disease it is.
"Kitch was always around. Whenever the club asked him to do something he'd come down. We'd always see each other at dinners and occasions and always make time to chat to each other.
"When I heard the news I couldn't believe it – I was absolutely gobsmacked. I know cancer can strike but for it to happen in such a short space of time is shocking. It's so, so tragic."
Briley arrived at Millwall in the summer of 1984, just two years after Kitchener called time on his career at The Den. And while the pair never played together, he says the defender's legacy was strongly felt by everyone at the club.
And Briley believes Kitchener's record of 602 appearances for the Lions will never be beaten.
"Whenever you read reports of games from the 70s it was always 'Kitch this' and 'Kitch that'," he said. "Hims and Harry Cripps' names would always crop up. He was a great leader of a very good team.
"Kitch's appearance record for the club is outstanding. When I was at Millwall the players always used to say how none of us were ever going to beat it.
"To play for so long and to get to that stage in your career is outstanding – let alone at just one club. I think I got to 535 career appearances but that was spread across a lot of different clubs.
"I don't see anyone ever beating it – players don't dedicate their lives to clubs quite like Kitch did, they move on more frequently these days.
"We'll always have those memories of what a fantastic player and captain he was."