FA Cup second round: Maidstone United looking to join Premier League clubs in third round
“They gained a corner and that I unexpectedly found myself standing alongside him. This had been the only time that I got everywhere.”
Former Arsenal defender Gavin Hoyte is speaking about his brief experience with Lionel Messi facing 40,000 Argentina fans.
Five years from his substitute appearance in Trinidad and Tobago’s 3-0 friendly defeat in South America, now Hoyte is set to turn out at the FA Cup next round to non-league Maidstone United.
Hoyte was 18 when he left his mature Gunners debut in 2008 alongside Aaron Ramsey in a League Cup tie.
While Ramsey has since proceeded to Juventus, Hoyte combines playing in the sixth grade of English soccer with working as a learning support assistant in a special needs schools in Essex – and claims he”couldn’t be happier”.
“I get a sense of achievement going into schools and doing this,” said Hoyte, that has been in non-league since departing Barnet, subsequently in League 2, in December 2016.
That is his very first season after being released with Dagenham & Redbridge in the summer, in National League South time and before leaving following four senior looks in 2012, Hoyte, who joined Arsenal as a nine-year-old, says he is still adjusting.
“At Arsenal you perform a carpet and you need to shout into the other person from the changing room because it’s so big,” he added.
“At this level several opposition grounds are dreadful. Some don’t even have warm water. It is fairly windy, there may be 500 seeing, but it is really tough to get up for.
“But it is the actual world and that I would not have it any other way.
“Clearly I do look back and think’what if I’d played games at Arsenal?’ However, you’ve got to be positive. I’ve got six or seven assists this year and I could not be more happy.”
Maidstone – nicknamed the Stones – finished bottom of their National League last season but their summer signings signify a club determined to earn a return to flight.
In addition to earning Hoyte, who appeared to get Watford at the Championship, they signed George Elokobi, veteran of 58 Premier League looks in Wolves’ defence between 2009-12.
Wolves fans fondly recall Elokobi because of his strong headed goal in a 2-1 triumph over the Manchester United in 2011 of Sir Alex Ferguson – took his pleasure out by twisting the corner flag along with the celebration which followed.
“I went through a lot with Wolves in terms of they shot me in as among their kids and it had been a love relationship from the beginning,” said the Cameroon-born player.
“There may be players that I played with in my three seasons in the Premier League who said to themselves’I’m not going to fall down to non-league’.
“Nevertheless, people forget that I started my career in non-league using Dulwich Hamlet.
“I worked my way through blood and sweat and I’m humble enough to perform at any level – even if it’s parks football.”
Stones captain Elokobi has performed in all four cup wins against Hitchin Town Cheshunt, Kings Langley and Torquay United that will help the Kent club #72,750 in prize money up to now.
Regardless of Maidstone’s 3G pitch, the 33-year-old conducts his own company for a life coach and motivational speaker to modify their lives and reach their own potential.
As a kid growing up in Cameroon, Elokobi had to come to terms with the death of his father, grandad and uncle all in the space of a few months.
He dwelt with his mom in Brixton and moved to England to begin a new life.
“I didn’t get in trouble, so I didn’t get mixed up into gangs when there was peer pressure to do so,” added Elokobi. “I opted to lead myself but not in an arrogant manner”
Maidstone, that train three times a week, moved through two distinct managers last season – Harry Wheeler and Jay Saunders – earlier appointing John Still .
It is the 69-year-old’s next stint at the club because he wanted to remain part-time to keep on conducting a company selling clothes before standing , with steered the initial Maidstone United in 1989 to the Football League.
Still includes spells in Peterborough, Luton, Dagenham & Redbridge as well as Barnet.
He’s responsible for helping to develop forwards Dwight Gayle, today at Newcastle.
Stood as Barnet boss December to spend more time with Barbara, his wife, that had been severely sick. He’s enjoying being back at Maidstone – three points off a National League South spot – working alongside head trainer Hakan Hayrettin.
Five months away out of his 70th birthday, Still is not considering retirement anytime soon.
“My body would tell me when I’m ready to pack it ,” he explained. “I will know when the time is proper. When I no longer enjoy it when nobody wants me – whichever comes first.”
Hire their 3G pitch to boost income, with approximately 1,000 people every week working with the # 5m centers of the club on the banks of the River Medway.
The Stones played their first game back after the completion of their Gallagher Stadium.
The club was laden and went out of business.
“There wasn’t any cash,” co-owner Oliver Ash, also a chartered surveyor and economics grad, recalled.
“The club has been within a couple of weeks of going under.”
A enthusiast, businessman Terry Casey, arrived on board and the joint-owners have stabilised the financing of Maidstone – though the team is looking for investment.
“We’ve got a great deal of community teams, an award-winning handicap section, a flourishing women’s section and 2,000 fans coming to home matches,” additional Ash, who resides in France and is now a shareholder and director in French Top 14 rugby union side Brive.
“We also have 50 students in a fulltime academy based at the club.”
Many Stones fans remember Chris Smalling turning out in the start of a career which would require him.
On Sunday, these same fans hope Hoyte and Elokobi will be able to inspire the non-league side into a win in the residence of 1953 winners Blackpool.