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Sat, Apr

Gavin Hoyte captain of Maidstone United during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Maidstone United and Stevenage at Gallagher Stadium on January 6, 2024 in Maidstone, England. (Photo by Crystal Pix/MB Media/Getty Images)
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Former Arsenal defender Gavin Hoyte says leading non-league Maidstone into a historic FA Cup fourth-round tie at Ipswich will be among the greatest moments of his career.

The National League South club – the lowest-ranked team remaining in the competition – have reached this stage for the first time since they were reformed in 1992.

Stones captain Hoyte made four first-team appearances for the Gunners under Arsene Wenger in 2008, including one Premier League outing, while his international career with Trinidad and Tobago saw him line up against an Argentina side containing Lionel Messi.

“This is completely different, we’ve had six games just before this (to reach this stage), so it all builds up,” said the 33-year-old, who joined Maidstone from Dagenham in 2019.

“I get to lead the team out – hopefully I’m playing!

“It’s definitely up there, the biggest thing in my career. I’m coming near the end of it now so I might not get this opportunity again.

“These games are easy to get up for. You’ve just got to make sure everyone is sticking to the game plan and not going off script.

“Sometimes with a big occasion you might want to do something extra but it’s very important we stick to the script.”

Following three FA Cup qualifying fixtures, Maidstone overcame Chesham in round one before upsetting Sky Bet League Two club Barrow and then League One side Stevenage.

The Kent club’s reward is Saturday lunchtime’s televised tie against the Tractor Boys, who sit second in the Championship, with just under 4,500 away fans due to make the trip to Portman Road.

Stones midfielder Sam Corne scored in the two previous rounds and is once again relishing underdog status.

“This is something you always dream of, to play against a top, top side,” said Corne.

“When we played the lower league sides, sometimes they’re the tougher opponents and then when we flipped it to Barrow and Stevenage, we’re the underdog and we still are now and we thrive off that.

“We’ve got nothing to lose. As long as we give a good account of ourselves and stick to the game plan, anything can possibly happen.”

Manager George Elokobi took charge of Maidstone on a permanent basis in March 2023 and has guided the club to fourth place in the sixth tier, in addition to a memorable cup run.

The 37-year-old former Wolves defender will be proud of his squad regardless of the outcome in Suffolk.

“The players, what they’ve done is magical, the magnitude of that result (against Stevenage) has put this community on the map in the eyes of the world,” said Elokobi.

“We would be foolish to change how we have done things in the past just because it’s Ipswich.

“We’re showing them every bit of respect and we know if we’re not on our absolute best on the day then it might be disastrous.

“But even if it is disastrous, we’re going to be proud of our group of players.”


SOURCE: Express & Star