John Hartson: 'Kicking West Ham teammate was worst thing I ever did'

West Ham Upton Park

Former West Ham United hero John Hartson has admitted kicking ex-teammate Eyal Berkovic is the worst thing he has ever done.

Hartson signed for the Hammers from Arsenal in 1997 as the relegation-threatened club rolled the dice to dig themselves out of a hole.

And it worked as the man still known as 'Super Johnny Hartson' down at Upton Park smashed in the goals, alongside another new signing Paul Kitson, to keep Harry Redknapp's side up.

The former Wales international and Celtic striker went on to score 33 goals in 73 league and cup appearances for the East Londoners, more than at any other English side he played for.

The burly target man was known for his cultured technique and touch on the pitch. But those same feet also got him into trouble at the club when he lashed out at then teammate and Israel captain Eyal Berkovic, kicking him in the face in front of watching TV cameras at their Chadwell Heath training ground.

Speaking to Blowing Bubbles Magazine Hartson, now 40, admits he is still haunted by the incident and is at a loss to explain why he did it.

"What I did (to Berkovic) was terrible – it’s undoubtedly the biggest regret of my career, and it soured everything that I’d been building up at West Ham," Hartson said.

"Why I reacted as I did, I really don’t know – it wasn’t anything personal, we got on perfectly well, he set up loads of my goals and he certainly didn’t deserve anything like that."

Berkovic famously said of the incident at the time: "If my head had been a ball, it would have been in the top corner of the net."

The images were beamed all over the world and Hartson never truly recovered in the claret and blue. His form dipped and he managed just four goals from 20 games the following season before being sold to Wimbledon for a then record fee of £7.5 million in 1999.

The cancer survivor was far from finished, though. He continued his brilliant scoring record of around a goal every other game during his time with the Dons and then Coventry before moving to Scottish giants Celtic where he bagged 88 goals in 144 games between 2001 and 2006.

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