Mention the 1970’s or 1980’s to any Leyton Orient fan and one of the first names they will mention playing for the O’s is the great centre forward Peter Kitchen.
A prolific goalscorer throughout his career, Peter was born in Mexborough and not only was he a legend for the O’s but also for his local team Doncaster Rovers. He was spotted by the great Lawrie McMenemy, the man who led Southampton to great heights in the seventies.
Kitchen was a man who put hard graft into his game and supporters never forgot him for that.
At his local home team Doncaster Rovers he went on to spend seven years there as a first team player making his debut at the age of 18 and incredibly Peter scored after just two minutes during a 3–0 win over Shrewsbury. It wasn’t a one off either as he scored again in his second game, a 2–1 defeat to Swansea. Despite Doncaster struggling in the old Division Four for several years, Kitchen made a name for himself at Rovers.
Kitchen scored 89 goals in 228 games for Donny making himself a legend in Yorkshire. He formed striking partnerships with Brendan O’Callagham and Michael Elwiss. He played alongside Elwiss in one of the biggest games for the club at the time when they drew 2–2 with the mighty Liverpool at Anfield on 5 January 1974, with Kitchen scoring one of the goals, before losing 2–0 in the replay. Kitchen went on to attract attention from higher divisions for several years, including spending time on trial at Ipswich Town with Bobby Robson at the helm before signing for the O’s in the summer of 1977 for £40,000. It was probably the best forty grand ever spent by Leyton Orient football club.
Ever present in his first year at Orient he finished as the club’s top scorer with 21 goals, as well as scoring seven times in the FA Cup as the club reached the semi-finals beating Chelsea and Middlesbough along the way. Orient at this time were plying their trade in the old Division Two but Kitchen was a revelation and I personally remember listening to the commentary on BBC Radio Two as Orient dumped the Blues out of the FA Cup with Rob Jones and I believe Alan Parry commentating.
His initial 65 games for the O’s netted 29 goals. The following year Kitchen moved across London to join Fulham for a fee of £150,000, a whacking great wad of money at the time. The move did not work out for him as he struggled to find form and a series of injuries in his second year at Fulham saw him miss most of the season as the club were relegated and he moved to Cardiff City for a cut price £100,000.
He made his debut for Cardiff in a 4–2 win against one of his former clubs in yup a match against Leyton Orient and, although he didn’t score in that game, he ended the season as the club’s top scorer with 13 League goals and, mainly thanks to scoring 5 times in a 6–0 win over Cardiff Corinthians in the Welsh Cup, 19 goals in all competitions as Cardiff just avoided relegation. However his form at the club did not continue into his second season at the old Ninian Park ground as the club failed to avoid relegation for the second year running and fell to Division Three.
After leaving Cardiff he strangely had a short spell with Hong Kong side Happy Valley, before returning to play for Leyton Orient in 1982–83. He made another 49 league appearances in his second spell with the London club hitting the back of the net another 21 times, and then went abroad again.
This time to the USA to play major indoor Super League football with Las Vegas Americans probably after Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior failed to have their contracts renewed. He returned to play for Dagenham in non league football, then finished his Football League career with a short stint at Chester City in 1984/85 before returning to Dagenham for the remainder of that season before being released. Kitchen retired at the age of 33, though made a short come back for another non league club in Margate in 1991. During the 1990s he made 228 appearances for Corinthian Casuals Veterans, scoring 280 goals.
His post-football career included coaching on the youth development programme at Wimbledon. However it was probably after his retirement from the game that he was viewed as a legend in many quarters.
In December 1999, Peter Kitchen was voted by fans of both Doncaster Rovers and Leyton Orient as one of their greatest ever players. In more recent polls conducted by BBC Football Focus, FourFourTwo magazine and other popular fanzines, he was voted as one of their best players, with some of those polls taking place more than 20 years after he had finished playing. He is still considered a ‘Cult Hero’ amongst both sets of fans.
When he signed for Rovers in June 1970, they beat Leeds United for his signature by just a few hours. He made his Football League debut at Shrewsbury Town on November 27, 1970, scoring after just 90 seconds and he repeated the feat by scoring after 95 seconds of his home debut the following week against Swansea City.
It’s those kind of stats that made him such a hero with both sets of supporters.
Peter Kitchen, a real Orient legend.