Margate FC captain David Hunt says he has no regrets about throwing in the towel on professional football to join the Kent National League South side.
The former Northampton Town, Crawley Town and Brentford midfielder, who returned to action for The Gate against Ebbsfleet United (league leaders) last week, told the Thanet Gazette and the BBC’s Non-League Football Show that he now enjoys a more fulfilling and healthy lifestyle playing part-time football.
Hunt’s claims are likely to raise a few eyebrows for buddying professional footballers that are drawn to the perceived glamour and riches of being a professional sportsperson. But for the tried and tested Gate midfielder, joining Margate was one of the best moves he’s ever made.
In a career spanning 14 years, Hunt has already won more promotions than most current-day footballers, so it’s hard to imagine why the Margate midfielder was so eager to walk away from the bright lights of pro-game last season. This was evident after former Welsh international Dean Saunders tried to lure Hunt back to Crawley Town to help preserve their League One status.
But after Hunt agreed to leave Oxford United by mutual consent last season; and turned down Crawley Town to join National League outfit Maidenhead United, it paved the way for a more rewarding and healthy work-life balance.
In an interview ahead of Margate’s game versus Bishop Storford on Saturday, Hunt told the Thanet Gazette: “from a very young age, all I knew was football. I signed for Crystal Palace when I was eight years old, and my life was football 24/7. That was it. There was no substitute and no other outlet, which was part of the problem.
“At some point, you have to get a reality check, and for me it’s when I left Oxford United. Until then, all I’d known was football, but then it was crunch-time: do I sign for another Football League club, or to I look to broaden my horizon.
“I believe everyone needs to find what their ‘why’ is in life. And while the expectation for me to continue to play professional football was huge, it was no longer my desire, and no longer healthy.
“As contrived as it sounds, leaving United to eventually join Margate was probably the best move I ever made in my career. It’s a great club, with a loyal fan-base, and I have a better lifestyle now playing part-time football and building my own marketing and distribution business than I ever did as a professional footballer.
“It’s not to say that football can’t bring about plenty of good fortune, as it can, but there are a large number of former and current professionals who have experienced marital problems, financial problems and far-reaching depression due to the pressures placed upon them both during and after leaving the game.
“I consider myself lucky, insofar that I have a great family and peer group, where I was able to seize the initiative and get a kick out of a more healthy alternative,” he added.
Whereas for some, lifting the FA Cup or League Cup is the ultimate dream, Hunt’s focus rests on winning the National League South championship as well as a different type of cup, and one that largely requires a coffee sachet, water and positive thought.
Since joining Margate in the summer, Hunt has collaborated with former premier league goalkeeper Richard Lee to set up the Bean Team – a UK-based multi-level marketing distribution group – that, in part, sets to move the treadmill to one side for an array of professional footballers.
And while some may find the change tough to tackle at first, Hunt’s mission is to make more footballers wake up and smell the coffee, and see a life beyond the traditional terraces and enjoy a more healthy and rewarding lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of the turnstiles.
“I’ve always been a staunch believer that you should always follow your dream and be the best that you can be. I still believe that to be the best advice anyone can give you,” said Hunt.
“Make no mistake, I came to Margate to win, and I wholeheartedly believe that the squad that Nikki Bull and Terry Brown have collectively built between them this season has the potential to gain promotion to the top-flight of the National League. We just need to believe it and realise our potential.
“When I look back 12 months from now, if someone had said to me that playing for Margate would change my life for the better, I would have probably looked the other way. In truth though, my reality check really has paid dividends. I feel truly honoured to wear the captain’s armband for Margate, so I would encourage anyone to look beyond the glass ceiling,” added The Gate midfielder.
Hunt can now be seen trading in his pre- and post-match energy drinks for a rich healthy blend of black coffee or Latte to help boost his energy levels and overall wellbeing, on and off the playing field.
Source: Refuel Performance Management