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Ex Arsenal man Justin Hoyte has said that he ‘could barely do two kick ups’ before joining the Gunners’ Invincibles stars.
As a youngster, Hoyte came through Arsenal’s famous Hale End academy and found himself amongst the club’s mega stars during an era of domination led by legendary boss, Arsene Wenger.
Despite his talent, Hoyte only managed to make a total of 68 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners, with 34 of them coming in the Premier League.
Hoyte’s Arsenal debut came during a 6-1 win over Southampton in May 2003, and he made one appearance during the Gunners Invincible season before moving to Middlesbrough in 2008.
During an exclusive interview with Daily Star Sport, Hoyte spoke about idolising Ian Wright when he was scouted as a striker as a child.
He said: “I was a striker playing for a Sunday League team called Redbridge United and I was scoring goals, running in behind playing like Ian Wright, my idol.
“A few scouts - Dave Holden and Steve Rowley - came by to watch me on the Sundays and then spoke to my dad and invited me down to a training session at Highbury.”
“When I scored, I was celebrating like him [Wright] and that's why my favourite number is eight now. I had posters of him on my walls. So for me, that's a huge reason why I wanted to play for Arsenal.”
Despite being scouted to go to Hale End, Hoyte admitted that his technical abilities were not too good at the start.
He continued: “I've been honest a lot of times and said I was probably technically one of the worst in the team when I first joined the academy. When I first went I could barely do two kick-ups, I had to improve very quickly my technical ability and what I was able to do with the ball. By the end of it I was one of the best.
“At Hale End they incorporated different playing styles, making us learn different playing positions, weight of passing, angles and third-man running, which is such a key part of the modern game. Everyone who was part of that programme in Grays [Essex] and then Hale End developed really, really quickly.”
Hoyte then eluded his family’s history of sprinting which helped him during his football career.
He added: “[The technical education] was the perfect blend with my sporting background - my mum and dad in athletics, my mum going to the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, being sprinters - it really helped.
“I would sometimes go to the running track midweek to work on my running technique and watch how the sprinters trained.
“My dad always used to teach me different running styles and I was like ‘No, I want a football with me,’ but the sprinting background definitely helped for making runs down the line and the pace aspect of football.”