Once captain of the Arsenal U18 squad, current Maidstone United full-back Gavin Hoyte discussed his career so far, lockdown routines, best advice and plans for life after football.
The former Gunners youth team product joined ‘The Stones’ after a disappointing second spell with Dagenham & Redbridge, a time in which the defender admitted considering his future in the game.
But his current spell in Kent has revived his love of football and Hoyte says he can’t wait to get back out there.
“I just miss football, really. That’s all I’ve done my whole life. To not be playing for this length of time is hard.
“From not even wanting to train last summer to be back loving football shows how much this move has done for me.
“The Maidstone fans are great, some of the best in Non-League, we’ve got a great group of lads and I even scored two goals this season so it’s been a special one for me!”
Hoyte’s journey to Maidstone has been filled with numerous ups and downs; good spells at Gillingham and Eastleigh plagued by less satisfying spells at Wimbledon or on the sidelines.
But one constant in his career to date has been the wealth of good managers he’s played under.
“My first three managers were Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers (Watford) and Gus Poyet (Brighton) so that’s a lot of top coaches early in my career.
“Even in the lower league with Dagenham, Barnet and Gillingham I’ve always had successful winning managers in charge like John Still, Martin Allen and Peter Jackson.
“I may not have seen eye-to-eye with all of them but they each taught me a heck of a lot.”
But for a lot of these lower league clubs, life will start to look very different as the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic hits home.
Votes on the future of the National Leagues Steps 2-3 will be cast in the coming days following the decision to curtail all football in March due to the viral outbreak.
And for many players like Hoyte, the whole situation is rather unclear.
“I’ve enjoyed it this season but I’m out of contract and I’m just waiting to hear what’s going to happen.
“No-one really knows when Non-League is going to return or how it’s going to be resolved so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
For Maidstone, a cancelation of the playoffs would end their hopes of promotion, and sitting just five points outside the current playoff places with two games in hand, that would be a bitter blow.
As for the players themselves, life during lockdown has thrown up some difficult challenges.
“It’s not easy being at home and having to motivate yourself. I have been going out for runs and taking the kids out for bike rides as much as possible but it’s tough.
“My friends and I have completed this 50km a month challenge but now the next one has been set at 100!
“As for other hobbies, I’ve never been good at kick ups so I didn’t even try the toilet paper challenge but I’ve just started the Sunderland Till’ I Die documentary which is pretty good!”
The uncertainty surrounding how this season might conclude and how the next one might begin is a looming challenge for the key footballing bodies.
But for footballers like Hoyte, while the precariousness of the situation unfolds, he’s implementing a valuable lesson he’s learned throughout his career.
“Be ready. The most important time of your career is when you’re out of the team, for whatever reason.
“It’s about working hard, focussing and not sulking because you never know when that opportunity to be in the team is going to come and if you’re not ready, that could be it.
“If you are ready, you never know where that could take you. You could play every game thereafter and become player of the season!”
Hoyte is still preparing for a number of years in football, assuming a return to normality can be restored.
But he’s very well aware of the difficulty in transitioning from a career in football to life after and has also been working in a school the last couple of years as a learning support assistant.
“To be honest, after football I really couldn’t tell you what I was going to do but my mum suggested I’d be good at this.
“I thoroughly enjoy working with the special needs students because when I go in, the delight on their faces is great. It’s a tremendously fulfilling role.
“But I’ve also considered starting my own soccer school. My little boy is 8 and I’ve been helping out one of the dads who is a manager and I really enjoy that as well.
“Either way, I like to think I’m now well prepared for a path after football.”