MARGATE captain David Hunt admits he is looking forward to facing his former club Maidenhead United on Saturday, a club that inspired him to wake up and smell the coffee, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
Hunt, who turned down a more lucrative contract with Crawley Town – then of League One – to join Maidenhead last season, says he owes a lot to the Magpies and their former manager Johnson Hippolyte.
The former Northampton Town, Crawley and Brentford midfielder has no regrets having played out the reminder of the 2014/15 season at York Road while he sought to find a better work-life balance after leaving Oxford United last February.
He said: “I will never forget my time at Maidenhead last season, it was one that helped to re-shape my life and spur me on to bigger and better things.
“When I made the conscious decision not to return to the professional game with Crawley last year, I was offered the opportunity to sign for both Staines Town and Maidenhead within a week, and I chose United.
“At the time, I was aware that many people were questioning my judgment, but I always knew that signing for Maidenhead would be one of the best moves I would make, and I was proved right.
“When you have been living and breathing football seemingly 24 hours a days since the age of eight the pressures start to mount. You need to find a release, a positive outlet, which I didn’t have when I first signed for Oxford in 2013.
“While Oxford is of course a great club, emphasised by their success this season, continuing to play in the Football League simply wasn’t healthy for me, and probably still isn’t for many other professional footballers. The fall-out rate with those suffering from depression alone is incredible.
“Joining Maidenhead, and playing under Johnson, enabled me to enjoy my football again and focus my off-field attention to something else. Not booze, but coffee.
“I recognise that it’s not commonplace for most footballers to decide to leave the full-time game and set-up a multi-level marketing and distribution business while still playing, but it has worked wonders for me.
“I owe a lot of what I have today to Maidenhead United for giving me the opportunity to find my feet again.”
Shortly after signing for The Magpies, Hunt co-found www.beanteam.info to provide a range of healthy consumables for sportsmen and women alike, as well as non-athletes.
Hunt, who still leaves in Maidenhead, admits that while Organo coffee is his newfound love, it would be great to see The Magpies and Margate make the play-offs at the end of the season, as long as Margate win the ultimate duel.
However, regardless of the outcome in May, Hunt believes that United has the right pedigree to gain promotion to the National League top-flight.
Having made an impressive 400 professional appearances for various League clubs over a 14-year period, Hunt said that Saturday’s match against United is as good as any he has marked on the football calendar.
“It’s a fixture that I’m really looking forward to. In many respects it’s a home game for me,” said the former Magpie. “It’s two good footballing sides trying to push for promotion.
“I know that when I step across that line my thoughts will be on football not coffee, but it will be great to reminisce with some former teammates, fans and committee members over a healthy Latte or two after the match.”
MAIDENHEAD recorded back-to-back wins in National South for the first time since October after a 2-0 victory over Eastbourne Borough on Saturday.
Harry Pritchard and Sam Barratt scored either side of the break at York Road, sending The Magpies up to 10th place in the table.