You may understand Dave Kitson as the tall, red-haired, retired Reading and Stoke striker.
However, if sleuth-hound fans are correct, he’s also ‘The Secret Footballer’ (TSF), responsible for writing a series of bestselling books exposing the beautiful game’s uglier side.
Supporters have speculated, sometimes wildly, on the whistleblower’s identity since he emerged as a columnist in a national newspaper around seven years ago.
And now, they reckon they’ve deciphered sufficient clues in his five readers to say, with some certainty, that the mysterious nature is none other than Kitson.
In his books, TSF botches the lid off everything from participants’ cheating sex acts in hotel pools to eye-watering bar bills pulled by stars.
He’s also vicious in his criticism of some big-name players and managers.
A website with a checklist of standards has also matched events described in the books with incidents from Kitson’s career, supporting their case with video footage.
The player himself is yet to prove their suspicions.
We can say with no suspicion that Kitson was not your middle footballer.
From performing in a supermarket to appreciating Shakespeare, shunning content items, and poring over good wines, he could never be accused of doing the Premier League star stereotype.
Here, we’ve looked at what makes the 38-year-old that bit different…
Kitson’s journey to the top of the football pyramid began near the bottom.
Having been raised in Hertfordshire as a teenager, he recreated for his regional club, non-league Hitchin Town, while operating as a shelf stacker in the frozen food section at Sainsbury’s.
A spell at non-league opponents, nearby Arlesey Town, observed.
In a 2007 discussion with the Guardian, he talked about how his stint performing in a supermarket had helped mold his character.
He said: “I never comprehended because I was wearing the Sainsbury’s clip-on tie with that livery and the dodgy waistcoat, why someone in a jet suit could talk to me the way they did.
In 2001, at 21, Kitson was cracked up by Cambridge United, then in Division Two, the third tier of English football.
He quickly moved from part-time to professional, notching 47 goals in 123 appearances.
Midway through the 2003/2004 season, he entered Division One flank Reading in a £150,000 deal.
He struck the ground operating in Berkshire, achieving five in 10 in his rather season and 19 in 37 the next campaign.
In 2005/06, the 6’3 frontman bagged 18 in 34 as The Royals beat the Championship title, securing promotion to the Premiership.
Kitson’s Premier League career got off to a dream start as he scored the club’s first goal in the top flying in a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough.
Sadly for him, he was severely injured in the exact match and remained out until January.
In January 2008, Kitson passed the first major hint that he was outspoken with his FA Cup comments.
Making a refreshingly simple remark, he said his focus was waiting in the Premier League, adding: “We are not running to win the FA Cup, and I do not overlook less about it, to be honest.”
An ill-fated spell at Stoke was observed after the Potters earned Kitson their record signing in a £ 5.5 million deal in July 2008.
In two years, he played 34 times, seeing the net just three times. He was loaned out, back to Reading, then to Middlesbrough, before going for Portsmouth in September 2010.
On his stint at Stoke, he said: “I hold my arrows up – it was my fault. I decided to go to Stoke. I didn’t have to, no one forced me to go, and it was a bad judgment.”
Towards the end of his Stoke trade, then-manager Tony Pulis called him “petulant.”
Clashing with teammates
Footballers have a reputation for liking fast cars, bling, and women.
Not Kitson. For starters, he once said how he didn’t like “being bracketed as a footballer.”
Talking to the Guardian in 2007, he said he owned no jewelry, watches, chains, developer clothes, or even a car. He also declined to have a boot deal.
He said: “If I paid more than £10,000 for a car if you could see where I arrived from, and you could catch what my dad is driving about in, and you could see my mates who I used to play football with moving around in their Sky vans, it just wouldn’t be right. I’m no better than any of those.”
Hinting at hate towards his peers, he said he didn’t want to be “that fella I see every day.”
Admitting to “frustrations” when conversing with teammates, he usually encountered “nothing in common” with them.
He said: “People think you’re arrogant because you don’t entertain the usual, ‘sh*g anything that moves’ – but I hate all that.”
Most Premier League footballers pay their spare time playing golf or video games.
Kitson’s passions away from the rise include literature, especially the works of William Shakespeare, fine wines, and his company interests.
In 2011, while recreating for Pompey, he recounted his plans to pen a book to the Portsmouth News: “They say write about what you know, and I think you’d call it semi-autobiographical if that is not being too arrogant. There is much of my life in there, but I would likely write it under a pseudonym.”
His description fits the TSF books.
On plans to establish a full-scale library in the home, he communicated with his wife Claire and their two young sons and flared up about his love of the Bard.
He counted: “When I was younger, I was massively into Shakespeare. I love Macbeth, which is excellent from start to finish. ‘I can read it and only know everything is perfectly written.”