Sidebar

12
Thu, Dec
49 New Articles

Typography

"They won a corner and I suddenly found myself standing next to him. It was the only time I got anywhere near him."

Former Arsenal defender Gavin Hoyte is talking about his brief encounter with Lionel Messi in front of 40,000 Argentina fans in Buenos Aires in 2014.

Five years on from his substitute appearance in Trinidad & Tobago's 3-0 friendly defeat in South America, Hoyte is set to turn out in the FA Cup second round for non-league Maidstone United at Blackpool on Sunday.

Hoyte was 18 when he made his senior Gunners debut alongside Aaron Ramsey in a League Cup tie in 2008.

While Ramsey has since moved to Juventus, Hoyte combines playing in the sixth tier of English football with working as a learning support assistant in special needs schools in Essex - and says he "could not be happier".

"I get a sense of achievement going into schools and doing that," said Hoyte, who has been in non-league since leaving Barnet, then in League Two, in December 2016.

This is his first season in National League South after being released by Dagenham & Redbridge in the summer and Hoyte, who joined Arsenal as a nine-year-old before leaving in 2012 after four senior appearances, says he is still adjusting.

"At Arsenal you play on a carpet and you have to shout to the other person in the changing room because it is so big," he added.

"At this level some opposition grounds are terrible. Some don't even have hot water. It's very windy, there might be 500 watching, it's really hard to get up for.

"But it's the real world and I wouldn't have it any other way.

"Obviously I do look back and think 'what if I had played more games at Arsenal?' but you've got to be positive. I've got six or seven assists this season and I couldn't be happier."


SOURCE: BBC Sport