Injury forced me to quit before Golds got to Wembley - but I still have part to play

Adam Hunt won't be able to influence things on the pitch for Littlehampton Town - but he still has a big part to play behind the scenes ahead of the Wembley final and at HQ on the day.

The defender, who reluctantly announced his retirement from the game just a few weeks ago having suffered a bad knee injury back in February, has been a popular figure on the sidelines in the past month or two and knows his experience of past success can help those around him this Sunday.

"I was gutted to have to announce the end of my playing career without being on the pitch to help the lads over the line in all of these finals we face. It wasn’t so long ago I was having a chat with Mitch (Hand) about playing on next season having almost decided that this year would be my last," he told us.

"But having had a conversation with the physio and the specialist who advised that if I carried on playing I could well cause myself some permanent damage later in life, it wasn’t too much of a difficult decision to make.

Injury has ended Adam Hunt's playing days sooner than he planned / Picture: Stephen Goodger

Red card cost me my Wembley chance and it hurts..

"It wouldn’t have just been the football to give up, but I wouldn’t have been able to play golf nor go to the gym, that was the stark reality of it all really. Although I’m still a part of the fairytale that’s happening it’s bittersweet, I guess, going from playing and being captain to ending up on the coaching staff.

"I can’t be too disappointed though, I’ve had a good non-league career and won a lot of things, I’m 35 now and it’s really not worth risking the long term damage to finish playing this season, I’m still involved and a part of things."

Hunt has relished the way the season has turned out for Town and has been pleased to play a part up until the injury finished his season.

"I was always available when called upon by Mitch and to skipper the side as well, it’s a great group of lads we have, some big characters in there. The big one was the league to win and the cup finals are a bonus to be enjoyed.

"The mix in the dressing room has helped I think, there’s the experienced ones who have won things, myself, Alex Duncan, Mitch, George, and Liam and then there’s the younger ones eager to get their hands on silverware as well, it’s pushed each other on at times.

"They’ve listened so well to what we tell them and there’s no chip on the shoulder moments when the two different sets clash, myself and George have had blow ups on the pitch but when we come off it no-one holds a grudge."

Hunt admits some of the early season defending gave him kittens given the number they were conceding but yet still winning games.

"Mitch and I have laughed about it but both being defenders it drove me mad a little bit, as the season went on though people seemed to know their job better and we became tighter.

"Once we did shore up a bit there were a couple of occasions where I thought we’re definitely going to do this, Eastbourne Utd away was the one and then close to the end at Pagham where we played poorly but scored two late goals."

Hunt’s experience of winning the league and being involved in big games has been invaluable to Hand and Gaskin, and he almost came close to winning a quadruple a few years ago.

"I’ve been involved in some great sides, East Preston we won the league by a mile, were tipped to win the Vase but made the last 16, won the RUR Cup but lost the John O’Hara Cup on penalties, that’s been the closest. At Horsham we suffered a lot with the pressure to do well, although we won the league by ten points we went out of the Vase in the first round.

"This year I’ve found that we got better with every game played and I’ve said to the boys all year the difference between us and the EP side is that we’ve got goals all through our side, everyone has chipped in at one stage or another and that is what wins you silverware.

"Something like a quadruple isn’t spoken about, you might think it but it’s never said because it’s pretty much unthinkable to be able to do it. My message now to the boys is we’ve won the league and cup double, let’s just go out and enjoy the last two, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Hunt believes the backing from the stands can’t be under-estimated with the atmosphere and the sheer numbers coming to watch the Marigolds this season has grown to a phenomenal level.

"It’s really grown arms and legs as the season has progressed. Back early in the season we had crowds of over 100 but less than 200 and then to be near 500 on Good Friday plus the big ones for the Vase games, it's huge.

"I don’t think they realise how much of an impact they have on the team. They’ve pulled us through some games where things were not so much going against us but we just needed that little bit extra and I hope it continues onwards into next year.’

Hunt admits that still being involved in the dug-out on matchdays has helped him cope with the fact he can’t pull the boots on again. "Absolutely! Having that connection still with everyone means a lot, I could easily have drifted away from the club but Mitch and George wanted me to stay close and I have to give credit to those already doing bits from the side, Danny (Hand), Steve (Tabor) and of course the managers I didn’t want to be stepping on anyone’s toes.

"It definitely softened the blow for me and I’m pleased they kind of took me under their wing as so to speak instead of me just being an injured player looking on from the stands."

The thought of now moving into coaching is one Hunt is beginning to think of but says although initial conversations are being had, there’s a lot more to consider. "Senior football has pretty much dictated my life for the last nearly 20 years, and I really like my golf as well so it might be I need a little break before deciding on the future. Now I’ve dipped my toes in though it’s given more food for thought, but I am going to enjoy the next couple of weeks still, take a few weeks out and then see where I go."

Hunt knows this Sunday will be a surreal feeling whether you’re a player, on the coaching staff or watching in the seats and he hopes the occasion is one to remember. "We’re the first Sussex side to reach the FA Vase final, but I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet and it probably won’t until 12.15pm comes around and we kick off.

"Because the season has been so constant of game after game we’ve been focussing and concentrating on each one as it comes. I think it will start to become real when we get to Wembley Stadium, get out on the pitch, see our friends and family all there and then we believe Littlehampton Town are playing in one of the best stadiums in the world. I think we’ll win; I don’t know anything about the other team but if we turn up and we play our game then it’s ours and finally it sinks in what we’ve gone and achieved."