Barry Kitchener, Harry Cripps, Teddy Sheringham, Terry Hurlock, Tim Cahill, Neil Harris, Paul Robinson. There have been many players who whenever Millwall fans reminisce, will eloquently wax lyrical about how these are some of the greatest/hardest/most terrifying players they have ever seen at the Old and New Den. Players who we remember growing up watching wishing we could be, who we would cheer and chant their names from the stands and terraces.
But what about the others? The players who when we find old programmes in the garage, we would flip it over and have completely forgotten that these players played a part in successful teams of the past. The ‘Steady Eddies’ who may not have scored hat-tricks or hit crunching tackle every week, but those who were reliable and wouldn’t let you down.
I thought for this article, I would let the Millwall Faithful choose the player to fondly look back on. After a poll was launched that involved the likes of Tamika Mkandawire, Willie Gueret and Poul Hubertz, there was one runaway leader who scooped 44% of the 589 votes cast. Therefore, this week’s article looks back at popular Millwall winger, Christophe Kinet.
Although not a local youth player who came up through the ranks, Kinet was a player who young fans wanted to grow up to be. Born in Belgium in 1979, Kinet was a player that the Junior Lions looked up to and idolised. A player whose skill, pace and trickery dazzled Millwall supporters and he looked like he was living a young fan’s dream. Quite literally as he had greasy curtained hair, a face that looked like he had not experienced acne yet and a football kit which he looked like he’d borrowed from then centre-back Sean Dyche.
Kinet signed for Millwall towards the end of the 1999- 2000 season, featuring in five games but mainly as a substitute. It was in his second season with Millwall that Kinet became a key member of the squad and goals against the likes of Brighton, AFC Bournemouth and a sensational hat trick against Northampton made Kinet a fan favourite. The Bermondsey-based Belgian wizard on the wing was part of the famous Millwall team who won the 2000-2001 Division 2 title, playing 35 times alongside the likes of Tony Warner, Paul Ifill, Tim Cahill, Neil Harris, Bobby Bowery, Kevin Braniff, Leke Odunsi, Byron Bubb and Tommy Tyne just to name a few members of this wonderful side. With a squad like that, it was no surprise The Lions were clear champions.
The end of a relatively frustrating 2001-2002 for Kinet personally, saw the baby faced Belgian only feature 19 times for The Lions, with a disappointing goal return which saw only 3 goals scored against Barnsley, Coventry City and Sheffield United. The reasons for the little game time could be down to several reasons: lack of form, injury, suspension, playing truant from school, not finishing his homework or spending the majority of the time in detention, but ultimately Kinet was released by Mark McGhee at the end of the successful season with Millwall finishing 4th and qualifying for the play-offs in the club’s first season back in the First Division.
In a bizarre turn of events, Kinet had gone from being the forgotten child in the playground during PE to being re-signed by Millwall on a one-year deal in August 2002. It was discovered that the cool midfielder in the school playground, Stephen Reid, would be injured and unable to be fit for the start of the 2002-2003 season, so Kinet was brought in as cover. Kinet who was on trial with Wimbledon at the time returned and told the Millwall website, "I never wanted to leave Millwall and I'm very happy to be back." Could this be due to the fact he loved the club, or he had insight that The Crazy Gang would soon be on their way to Milton Keynes and all he had to look forward to was concrete cows and roundabouts? Although a frustrating season compared to the year before saw Millwall obtain a 9th place finish, the season saw more game time for Kinet who played in 23 games for The Lions, scoring 2 goals against Coventry and Preston North End.
The fan favourite was not offered a contract and was released at the end of the 2002-2003 season. Kinet spent the rest of his playing career abroad, having spells with FC Brussels, Sparta Rotterdam, KSV Roeselare and RFC de Liege. In all, Christophe Kinet played 82 times for The Lions, scoring 11 goals. Some question if he was an unsung hero, but even the cool kids at school with the flicks and tricks will be outshone by other class mates who played in that fantastic squad of 2000-2001. Kinet was a great player who in most other sides would’ve been the head of the class. He seemingly had it all: speed, skill, trickery and a dangerous turn of pace. When on form, Kinet did not look out of place in a team where the majority of his team mates, involving the likes Tim Cahill, Stephen Reid and Lucas Neill, would go on to play in the Premier League and at International level. But when you have the star pupil in his absolute prime like Neil Harris was at the time, even great players can be temporarily forgotten.