Versatile forward Joe Kitchen joined Hull City in September 1921 at the closing stages of a professional career that had spanned 16 years, albeit with four seasons of senior football missed due to World War One. Kitchen began the 1921/22 season as City’s first choice centre forward and scored in his third start, a 2-0 win against Blackpool. For several months Kitchen played second fiddle to a fellow Lincolnshire man, City striker Paddy Mills. He returned to regular first team action in April 1922 when he had four starts in an unfamiliar centre half role before playing the last two fixtures at inside left. Joe started the 1922/23 season in the inside left position and scored in three of the opening five fixtures against Port Vale, Bury and Notts County. He remained in the first team until mid-November, then returned on Christmas Day and scored against Southampton. After also starting the return fixture the next day in Southampton, Kitchen made only one further start for the Tigers before leaving in the 1923 close season.
Joseph Ernest “Joe” Kitchen was born and raised in the centre of Brigg, an agricultural market town in the northern part of Lincolnshire. At the tender age of sixteen he joined Division Two side Gainsborough Trinity and after impressing in the reserves in the early months of the 1906/07 season, Kitchen was handed his first team debut over the festive period against Chesterfield Town, a match that saw Trinity go down to a heavy 0-7 defeat. Despite this setback Kitchen retained the inside right shirt for three further games and netted his first two senior goals in a January 1907 3-1 win over Stockport County. He returned to first team action in March and April 1907 for five more starts, adding a further goal against Barnsley.
Kitchen was a regular starter for Gainsborough in the 1907/08 season as he switched between centre forward and both inside forward roles. He scored four goals in the first three league fixtures of the season as Trinity rose to an unlikely third place in the table, the highlight being an opening day brace against local rivals Grimsby Town. His next goal didn’t come until Boxing Day, again against Grimsby, after a month out of the first team. Joe then scored six goals in nine starts during February and March, form that alerted a slew of First Division sides who jostled for his signature. He left Gainsborough having scored 14 times in 38 starts, all before his 18th birthday.
In March 1908 Kitchen transferred to First Division Sheffield United for a £350 fee. He started three matches at centre forward for the Blades without adding to his goal tally. Kitchen spent much of the 1908/09 season in the Blades’ reserves before joining the first team for 11 starts towards the end of the season and scoring three goals including two in the final day fixture against Manchester City. This was enough to encourage Sheffield United to place their trust in Kitchen as their full-time pivot for the 1909/10 season and the 19 year old forward rewarded that faith handsomely – he missed only one league game all season and netted 21 league goals plus another in the FA Cup. His goals propelled the Blades up to sixth place in the First Division table and he scored braces against Sunderland, Everton, Preston, Liverpool and Middlesbrough in a superb breakout season.
Kitchen continued to lead the line for Sheffield United for the next five seasons, failing only once to hit double figures for League goals (he got 9 in 1912/13). He opened the 1911/12 season with the first hattrick of his career against Oldham Athletic. Having gone out of the FA Cup at the First Round stage for six successive seasons, the Blades reached the semi-final in 1913/14, losing out narrowly to Burnley in a replay – Kitchen’s season was capped off when he received a benefit match in the January 1914 league game against Sunderland. In 1914/15 Sheffield United had another fine season, finishing sixth in the First Division and reaching the FA Cup Final, a tie they won by sweeping aside Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford – Joe Kitchen scored the third goal in the closing minutes of the Final to seal the win and receive his first winner’s medal in football, while team-mate and ex-Tiger Stan Fazackerley netted the second goal.
The euphoria of that win quickly faded as the Football League (and FA Cup) was suspended in the summer of 1915 due to World War One. Kitchen continued to play non-senior wartime fixtures for the Blades and also made a guest appearance for Grimsby Town in 1918. He had nearly a year out of the game in 1917 due to a foot injury, this rest seemed to revitalise a player who was still only 28 but had twelve years experience under his belt. He rattled in 27 goals during the 1918/19 wartime Midland League season and when the Football League resumed in August 1919 Kitchen maintained that good form, scoring twelve goals in the first eight matches of the season including his second senior career hattrick against Middlesbrough. This fine form attracted the attention of the England international team selectors, who were preparing for two Victory Internationals in October 1919. While these matches were designed to celebrate the end of the War and were not eligible for full international caps, Kitchen was nevertheless honoured to be selected for two games and then devastated to miss both games due to injury – that was as close as Joe came to international honours.
Despite his superb start to the season Kitchen’s form fell away after missing out on England honours and by March 1920 he was out of the Sheffield United first team. He failed to agree terms during the 1919/20 close season and in July 1920 he signed for Second Division side Rotherham County – quite a drop from international selection nine months earlier. After just one goal in 18 starts for the Millers, Kitchen returned to Sheffield United in December 1920 with the Blades repaying the £650 fee Rotherham had paid for Joe’s signature. He scored three goals in 14 starts before leaving Sheffield United again in September 1921 and joining Hull City for a £250 fee – in his 12 years at Bramall Lane Kitchen had scored 114 goals in 269 appearances for the Blades, making him one of the club’s leading goalscorers. And by the time his senior career came to an end in May 1923 Joe had scored 134 senior goals in 355 appearances in a career spanning seventeen years.
Kitchen left Hull City in May 1923 and by August he had placed an advert in the Athletic News seeking a new club. A few days after that advert was placed Kitchen, now settled in Barton Upon Humber, joined Scunthorpe & Lindsey United for the 1923/24 campaign. He spent the next two seasons switching between his first club Gainsborough Trinity and Sheffield-based side Shirebrook, two clubs that competed in the Midland League alongside Scunthorpe. Joe started the 1926/27 season playing in the North Lindsey League for Barton Town but soon gave it up to concentrate on running his pub, the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Barton Upon Humber. After many years running his pub Kitchen moved to Enfield in North London in later life for reasons unknown, and he died in Enfield in November 1974.
As well as a footballer Kitchen was a recognised cricketer who spent three summers before WW1 playing for both Lincolnshire and Sheffield United CC. He played to a decent club level around Lincolnshire until his early 40s.
Date/Place of Birth: 20 June 1890, Brigg
Hull City First Game: 10 September 1921, Fulham H (Division Two), 31 years, 82 days old
Hull City Final Game: 9 April 1923, West Ham United A (Division Two), 32 years, 293 days old
Brigg Town, Gainsborough Trinity (1906-1908), Sheffield United (1908-1920), Rotherham County (1920-1921), Hull City (1921-1923), Scunthorpe & Lindsey United (1923-1924), Gainsborough Trinity (1924-1925), Shirebrook (1925), Gainsborough Trinity (1925-1926), Barton Town (1926)
Hull City Record
Career: 30 apps, 5 goalsJoe Kitchen