Filed: Thursday, 7th February 2008
By: Matthew O'Greel
Former West Ham United striker John Hartson has retired from football at the age of just 32.
The ex-Welsh international has decided to hang up his boots after being released by Championship outfit West Bromwich Albion last week.
Hartson began his career with Luton as a trainee in 1992 before landing a dream move to Arsenal three years later. However he failed to make much of an impression at Highbury and was frozen out after the arrival of Dennis Bergkamp.
Then-Hammers manager Harry Redknapp snapped Hartson up for £3.2m in February 1997 along with Paul Kitson of Newcastle, and the pair played a major part in helping the Hammers avoid relegation that season.
The following season (1997/98) Hartson became one of the Premiership's most prolific strikers, scoring 24 goals - 17 of which came before Christmas - as the Hammers finished eighth in the league whilst making the quarter-finals of both domestic cup competitions (where they lost to Arsenal twice).
However by the end of 1998 Hartson had begun to experience weight and fitness problems - something that blighted his career thereafter.
That, combined with a lack of goals (he scored just four in the first half of the 1998/99 season) plus a much-publicised training ground incident involving Eyal Berkovic led to him being sold by Redknapp to Winbledon for (an astonishing) £7.5m in January 1999.
Hartson stayed with the Dons for two seasons before enjoying spells with Coventry, Celtic, West Brom and Norwich - although he never managed to recapture the form of 97/98 which had made him one of the most feared strikers in the Premiership.
'Super Johnny' Hartson - as he was once known by the Boleyn faithful - played a total of 73 times for West Ham United, scoring 33 goals.
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