KITTED UP: Finn Tapp in his Oxford City strip
By David Richardson
Finn Tapp is determined not to let his football talent go to waste after becoming one of Britain’s most popular reality TV stars.
The former Oxford City centre-back featured on the hit ITV2 dating show Love Island, which pairs six boys and six girls in an isolated villa for almost two months, at the start of the year.
The 20-year-old won the hearts of the nation after finding love with new girlfriend Paige Turley as they were voted the winners and shared £50,000 in prize money.
But before throwing himself into the public eye, Tapp had been playing regularly for Oxford in National League South, having dropped out of professional football when he was released by MK Dons – and football has always been his first love.
“I was at Dons since the age of eight and got my pro contract in 2018 for one year, but it didn’t get renewed,” he told The NLP. “It was certainly a disappointment at the time, I was absolutely gutted. I was travelling to the training ground for ten years, three times a week, sometimes every day of the week.
“I had a little bit of time off football weighing up what I wanted to do. I was missing it and went on trial at Oxford. Funnily enough we played MK Dons in pre-season and I reckon it was the best game of football I’ve ever played in my life. Oxford gave me a contract afterwards before Dons could take me back!
“I was really surprised with the standard of football, the first couple of sessions I was thinking these players are good. I got the perfect balance between semi-pro and a proper job.”
Tapp had played 20 times for the Hoops while working as a recruitment consultant before an opportunity arose to go on Love Island.
Due to the strict confidentiality agreements the show imposes, he couldn’t risk telling the club he would be flying off to the villa in South Africa until the last minute to avoid the secret getting out and breaching his contract with ITV.
Naturally, it came as a surprise to Oxford one of their players would be missing part of the season but Tapp saw it as a chance he couldn’t turn down.
“You hear the stories about how many people apply for it and it was never something I thought was going to happen,” he said. “I knew I was going to p*** a few people off [due to the contracts] but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that had been handed to me.
“It was nice to come back to see the support Oxford gave me while I was in there because it’s a bit of a weird one for them and I don’t think they’d be in a position like that ever again.
“Definitely the first couple of days in the villa you notice the secret cameras in the bushes and you’re more conscious of it. You can always tell when you’re having a bit of juicy conversation with someone, all the cameras just turn onto you. After the first couple of days you do forget about them and then you’re just living in a villa with your mates.”
During the show contestants are confined to the luxury villa and have no idea what is going on in the outside world.
It is somewhat similar to life in lockdown which Tapp has spent with Turley in Scotland, although since returning from the programme the pair have attracted plenty of attention.
But Tapp is eager to restore some normality in his life by turning his attention back to football.
“There was two, maybe three weeks we were out of the villa and not in isolation,” he added. “You go to restaurants and people are noticing you which is strange because you come out just as normal as you went in. It’s like you’ve been on a six-week holiday and then people are recognising you.
“It’s certainly a lot different from before then but I really miss playing. To put it to bed just because I’ve gone on a show and done well or whatever, I think it would be a waste of a talent and would be stupid to give it up if it’s something I like.
“When and where I’m not too sure. I don’t know where I’ll be living in a few months or what’s going to be happening. There’s a lot of factors to take in but it’s certainly a passion of mine and still is, and something I want to get back into.”