Loyalty and integrity are rare and precious personality traits in a modern-day footballer. Justin Hoyte seems like a young man blessed with both.
The England U21 right-back has had a tough time at club level this season, making only three starts for Arsenal so far, none of which have been in the Premiership. Hoyte ended last season as the club’s second-choice right-back and despite Emmanuel Eboue’s conversion to the right side of midfield has remained nothing more than a backup after to the signing of French defender Bacary Sagna who, somewhat surprisingly, has been nothing short of outstanding since his arrival from Auxerre.
Despite Hoyte’s difficult situation, the English defender has shown great maturity by indicating that he is prepared to stay and fight for his position at Arsenal rather than moving to a smaller Premiership club that would surely guarantee first-team football.
“Of course I want to stay at the club and fight. I want to be an Arsenal player. You never know what can happen in football but I know I am going to knuckle down, train hard, work hard and perform when I get my chance. It is tough at the moment because the team is doing so well and a few players are not getting into the team. It’s up to us to take our chance if there is an injury. It is frustrating but I am a professional and need to behave that way and focus on the job in hand.”
As an out-of-favour young player in a winning team, this is about as ideal an attitude towards the game as you could expect to find. The difficulty when a side is winning is that there is really no need to change the players who are involved in the side and lately players like Hoyte as well as Gilberto Silva, Abou Diaby and Lassana Diarra have been somewhat unfairly punished for their teammates consistent performances.
A gradual improver
But as Hoyte outlines, it is up to the players who are not in the team to take their chance when they are presented with it. Wenger has given more than enough indication this season that if a position becomes up for grabs and an outstanding candidate emerges, he is willing to go with that player as long as they continue to perform. Manuel Almunia and Mathieu Flamini could definitely testify there.
The irony behind Hoyte’s comments is that at this stage, I feel that he is one of only a handful of Arsenal players who is not really ready for the big-time yet. Despite some good signs I don’t think many people would disagree that Hoyte still has a long way to go before he can be considered good enough to be a first-choice full-back in a club as big as Arsenal. I think he has realised this and I would suggest a lot of his desire to stay and work hard at the club would surely be down to improving his game as much as possible under a manager as astute as Wenger.
I get the impression that Hoyte will be a late bloomer. Like Flamini, I see him as someone who gets slightly better with each season as he learns from the more talented players around him. Whether or not he gets the chance that Flamini has been presented with or indeed takes that chance as well as Flamini has is another matter entirely. Regardless, one has to admire the loyalty and integrity that Hoyte has shown at Arsenal so far and I sincerely hope that the other young players at the club – as well as some older players from other clubs – can learn from it as well.
What do you think?
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