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What a waste

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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