Hartson also played for Arsenal, West Ham United, Wimbledon, Coventry City, and West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, as well as Luton Town and Norwich City in the Football League. Hartson represented Wales 51 times, scoring 14 goals. After retiring from playing, he became the head coach of Wales' attackers. He is regarded as one of the best Welsh players in history.
He made his debut for Wales on 2 June 1984 in a friendly against Israel at Park Stadium, Cardiff. He scored his first goal three days later in another friendly against Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. He then went on to win 16 caps and score five goals before being forced to retire from playing due to a knee injury. After retirement, he became the head coach of Wales' attackers, leading them to third place in UEFA Euro 2008.
Hartson played primarily as a attacking midfielder but was also used as a forward. He is considered one of the greatest Welsh players of all time.
After graduating from Arsenal's youth system, Hartson signed professional terms with the Gunners in August 1983. He made his First Division debut two months later on 30 December 1983 at Highbury Stadium against Manchester United. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. In total, Hartson made 27 appearances in the league that season as Arsenal won the First Division title.
Hartson earned 51 caps for Wales, although he was frequently mocked during brief spells at Wimbledon, Coventry, Norwich, and West Brom. Nonetheless, he made an impact at West Ham and, of course, Celtic, where he scored over a hundred goals alongside Henrik Larsson. He retired in 2011 at the age of 36.
Wales had no real central defender until the early 1980s, when Gary Sprake and Alan Birchenall emerged. Both men were skilful with the ball at their feet and could also be effective in possession without it, helping their teams to numerous victories by nullifying the threat of the opposing forward line.
Birchenall played for Wales between 1979 and 1990, winning 80 caps, while Sprake represented his country from 1981 to 1991, winning 29 caps.
The peak years for Welsh football were the mid-to-late 1970s, when several great players performed on the international stage. England dominated the early years but there was a shift towards more creativity and skill later on, which is when Wales really started to produce players such as John Charles, Billy Adams, and Kevin Jarrett. This era saw Wales reach a highest point ever, when they finished third at the 1982 World Cup.
After this success, both Charles and Adams decided to quit the game, leaving Jarrett as the only player in the squad.
Hartson appeared in 51 first-team games for Wales, scoring 14 goals. He is presently the Welsh team's 11th top scorer of all time. He is also one of just four persons to have scored a hat-trick for the Wales U21 squad, together with Craig Davies, Lee Jones, and Ched Evans. In total, Hartson played 114 times for his country, scoring 42 goals.
As a youth player, he became familiar with the English game through the Welsh club side Newport County, where his father Andy was a goalkeeper. He made his debut against Israel in 1999 at the age of 18 and went on to play in every match until 2001 when he suffered an ankle injury that required surgery. After recovering from this injury, he continued to play through pain and eventually had to be substituted in a game against Scotland in 2003. This led to several long-term injuries which prevented him from playing football for three years.
When he did return, he was not the same player and was unable to regain his place in the national team. He retired from international football after being dropped in 2004. However, he came out of retirement two years later when new manager Michael Laudrup called him up for a pair of matches against Moldova and Ukraine in October 2007. He remains the only player to have scored in both the UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup - each tournament final was enough to ensure his inclusion in our list.
With a fee of PS7.5 million, Hartson became Wimbledon's most expensive signing ever. His tenure with MK Dons was cut short by injuries, but he still scored a decent goal tally, first in the Premier League, then in the First Division after the team was relegated in 2000.
Hartson scored in Celtic's 2-1 defeat to Celta Vigo in the third round of the UEFA Cup in December 2002. Celtic advanced on the away goals rule despite the aggregate score of 2-2. Celtic remained in European action beyond Christmas for the first time since 1980.
Hartson also played for Arsenal, West Ham United, Wimbledon, Coventry City, and West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, as well as Luton Town and Norwich City in the Football League. Hartson represented Wales 51 times, scoring 14 goals. After retiring from playing, he became the head coach of Wales' attackers.