Lifestyle choice over bashing

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

FACED WITH the prospect of taking a bash to prove his worth in elite football in England or choosing a stress-free path to see the world, what do you think Stephen Hoyle did?

Yes, Hoyle did what most intelligent people do - packed his suitcase with girlfriend Natasha Bartnik and jetted off to New Zealand.

That is not to say, of course, he has put his soccer ambitions on the back burner and will re-emerge as 30-something father of two to exchange shin kicks in a social competitive grade some day.

His attitude is simply one of mixing pleasure with business, as it were.

"When I write to friends in England I want to tell them that I've won the Chatham Cup, the equivalent of the FA Cup back home," the 19-year-old from Barnsley says before the Bluewater Napier City Rovers team kick off tomorrow in their Central League campaign in Napier against Petone at 2pm.

Hoyle, an attacking midfielder from South Yorkshire, arrived here on Good Friday as one of the new signings for the Rovers.

Although he hasn't played for almost half a year due to injuries and study commitments, Hoyle intends to prove his worth to Hawke's Bay United coach Chris Greatholder this summer after a solid build up over winter for the Rovers.

Greatholder advised the teenage striker, who had sent a DVD to gauge his ability after putting his feelers out in summer to all the ASB Premiership franchises, to prepare during the winter if the former Doncaster Rovers player had ambitions to play for Bay United.

Coach Grant Hastings has been putting his men through the spin-dry cycle since January although he felt the Bay United premiership campaign was disruptive in his bid to find shape in the Rovers' build up.

A team that prided themselves on defence last winter, it appears Hastings has injected some pace in the engine room and up front in finding balance in the Blues this season for last year's losing Chatham Cup (knockout) finalists and Central League runners up.

Among the strikers is returning Rover Jarrod Smith in what Hastings describes as a "balanced" squad.

"Jarrod's the best striker running around at any level and he's performing so he'll bring a lot," he says of the former All White striker who found the net with some consistency when not nursing niggly injuries two winters ago.

Hoyle did not make the squad cut for the flagship Doncaster side who are currently staving off relegation in the Championship League in England.

He says his former club are struggling because of internal bickering.

He and his girlfriend are boarding with Napier defender Danny Wilson and his fiancee Lauren Swain.

While sold on the Rovers' goal of nailing the double (Chatham Cup and league), Hoyle wants to improve his constitution towards the cause.

The room to dribble and pass the ball here appeals to the Englishman who scored 16 goals in his last outing for the Doncaster Rovers reserves.

"In England you get kicked and roughed about more," he says.

He bemoans the relaxed rules that allow for a verbal warning from referees for the first physical challenge of the game.

He's convinced it's designed to favour belligerent defenders "to take out the dangermen" up front, something he believes won't see the light of day in New Zealand.

Describing himself as an "unselfish" player, the right footer prefers to work the ball into the 18m box.

Having signed to play for Barnsley as an 8-year-old, Hoyle worked his way into elite youth competitions where he says he competed against potential Manchester United counterparts "week in, week out".

He went on to lead the South Yorkshire County team at the age of 16.

"I kind of hoped to become a Championship League player but there are so many good footballers," Hoyle says, opting to choose life over a potential contract in English and Spanish lower leagues.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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