A weekend without Arsenal is always one that I struggle with. The usual focus that a fixture brings is forced to shift elsewhere and it tends to knock my equilibrium out of sync. So naturally, I look for tenuous links to Arsenal to keep me going. This weekend, being the FA Cup 4th round, simply serves to highlight that Arsenal are no longer in the competition, but there is still a story that has peaked my interest.
Maidstone United. The minnows from the National League South take on Championship side Ipswich Town at 12:30 today as the lowest ranked side remaining in the competition. As a Kent based Arsenal fan, I hold something of an interest in their success and will be willing them on to cause an historic upset. Having watched the local news last night, it came to my attention that the captain of the club is none other than ex-Arsenal defender, Gavin Hoyte.
Most will remember him for being the brother of Justin Hoyte; the right back who made 68 appearances for the club, scoring once in a 4-0 win over Charlton Athletic. Gavin on the other hand made just four appearances, with three of those coming in the League Cup. His other appearance came in 2008, in his only Premier League start for the club.
The game was a challenging afternoon for Arsenal and indeed youngster Hoyte. Stephen Ireland gave the hosts the lead before Robinho was played in behind Hoyte and delicately chipped Almunia. Johan Djourou then fouled Daniel Sturridge in the penalty area in stoppage time, with the Englishman dispatching the resulting penalty to put the gloss on the game and compound Arsenal's afternoon. It was a tough game for Hoyte, and ultimately he wouldn't make another start for the club, despite remaining at the club until 2012.
A series of loan spells saw him make appearances for Watford, Brighton, Lincoln City and AFC Wimbledon, before signing permanently for Dagenham & Redbridge at the end of the 2011/12 campaign. He followed this with spells at Gillingham, Barnet and Eastleigh before returning to the Daggers in 2018. He would join Maidstone in 2019.
So this afternoon, with my 2008 Arsenal hat on, I'll be willing Maidstone United and Gavin Hoyte to do the unthinkable and see off the high-flying Tractor Boys.