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He is the man with the never-ending smile who always acknowledges FC Cincinnati fans during games.
“Swing it to the right, he is wide open,” was a common theme heard from the stands as Justin Hoyte would be available, and unmarked, on the right wing.
Hoyte said he loves engaging the fans, and he said yes, he could definitely hear them yelling for him to the get the ball.
In a recent sit down with FloFC, Hoyte opened up about his playing days for Arsenal and how he is enjoying being the elder statesman for FCC.
FloFC: You played on England's biggest stage, how does FCC compare to that?
Justin Hoyte: Good, really good. Our fanbase is amazing. It is what you get in some premier league clubs. Our atmosphere is fantastic, similar to what you get in England and Europe. It is a great experience and fantastic for me to be a part of.
Six seasons with Arsenal, also seeing time with Middlesbrough and Sunderland. What has been your favorite stop?
Has to be Arsenal since I was a boyhood Arsenal fan. Growing up with the youth team and playing for the first team was a dream come true. Most of my family are Arsenal fans so for me to then play for the first team is something I will always cherish. That will always be my biggest achievement and probably when I look back one of the biggest moments in my career.
You have been with FCC since 2017, making 45 starts in the USL and five starts this year in MLS. Did you have a hard time adjusting to living in the States for the first time?
Other than just visiting on holiday, Cincinnati has been my first stop. I really enjoy it. I have fallen in love with this city. It is kind of like home now after being here three years. I guess it is like a second home really. I have settled in and my family has settled in. We are all here now and really just have fallen in love with this city.
You have a young daughter and young son, I assume the majority of your free time is spent doing family things?
Yeah, my off time is spending time with the family really. We go downtown or to the park, really whatever the kids want to do. We just relax really. Whatever the family wants to do is good with me. We do like to sit by the pool. It is not everywhere you can have a pool and sit outside, so we like to spend time outside enjoying the weather.
Three years in Cincinnati now and you are a fan favorite. Do you get recognized a lot when you go out?
Every now and then. It is different. In England they recognize you, but over here they just kind of smile and wave and are like ‘who is that?’ People are respectful. People might recognize you or they don’t but the good thing is when people do recognize you they aren’t afraid to come say hello or have a chat and say they follow and support the team.
English fans have quite a reputation for their love of soccer. How do Cincinnati fans stack up?
Unbelievable to see the franchise has only been going on four years the amount of support. You see T-shirts, flags around the city, and everyone is in full support of the team. They always say great things about the team, which is fantastic.
You have had a great career in soccer, and I have heard you want to get into coaching.
I am at that part of my career now where you look at what you are going to do after soccer. I am looking to play as long as I can, but you are always looking post-career. I would like to retire here in Cincinnati. I am looking at different coaching options and hopefully I can coach and stay in America as long as I can.
Speaking of coaching, the recent departure of Alan Koch and the hiring of Damet as interim coach has boosted your playing time. How do you like being the new starting center back?
It has given me a lot of confidence really. The coach came in and told me what he expects of me and asked me if I was up to the challenge. I said of course I am, you know, I want to play, I always want to play. The manager said what I could bring to the team and I feel I am able to help. My experience helps the players around me and hopefully helps the team wins. I am loving the challenge, the job, and I am just happy to play really.
You are well-known for your interaction with the fans. Is that just your personality?
It’s funny. We have had a good laugh on my side. I like to talk during games so when the ball goes out I like to interact with the fans. Just a little joke, a smile, I love to interact with the fans. Once I am talking, I am into the game. When I am talking, I am into the game. I like to play with a smile on my face, so if I am smiling and the fans are smiling I feel I am doing my job.
You are a vet on this team. Do you feel pressure to share your wisdom with the younger players?
I am quite quiet in the locker room. I like to do my talking on the field and be a professional off it. When I was young, I looked to veterans at Arsenal and now to be that older player is to show what I have learned. If I am doing my job and doing it professionally and three or four people follow by example, then that is my job done.
Three years, have you developed a craving for Skyline Chili yet?
The funny thing is I have never had Skyline Chili yet. Yeah, I know, it is just something I haven’t tried yet but (laughing) I am sure it is now something I will try in the next few days.