(Photos: Phill Heywood)
By Sam Elliott
IT’S all in the preparation, they say. So how did Dave Tarpey get himself geared up for Maidenhead United’s game with AFC Fylde last Tuesday, a match in which he scored just the four goals?
A nice massage in the posh team hotel, or maybe relaxing the muscles and oiling the cogs he would need come 7.45pm, perhaps?
A welcome stroll to clear the mind and get himself in the right place mentally to take on one of the clubs expected to push for promotion is another sensible, time-honoured tradition.
Or what about some light pre-match shooting practice somewhere close by? There’s nothing quite like a bit of last minute fine-tuning of the talents to get your body in the zone ahead of a tough 90 minutes.
“You’ve got to be joking!” says Tarpey, now a household name in the world of Non-League football following a season he’ll never forget.
“I was at work before the game, quite busy actually but thankfully I have got a good boss, he let me go early.”
Nothing unusual about that. This is part time football we’re talking about, of course. Sacrifices must be made and two jobs is something a lot still must juggle.
But then you remember the Berkshire boys of Maidenhead United were AWAY to AFC Fylde on Tuesday night.
“I got up early, worked until just after 11am, raced over to our ground and jumped on the team coach. Then we had hours crawling up the motorway before we eventually got up to Fylde in the north west about 250 miles away. It’s a long old way, I promise you that!
“But it was good fun, the lads always have a laugh and we keep each other going. We’re a part time club, we can’t just all travel up the day before, stay in a nice hotel and then bob over to the stadium four hours before kick-off. It’s not like that.
“We’ve all got work, I think most of the team got the whole day off but I had to do a few hours before we left. Yes, it was a long old day. The coach didn’t pull back in until 3.30am!
“It’s all part of the experience. That’s the life of a Non-League footballer!”
It’s easier to crawl into your bed – for a few hours at least before you start work the next day – when you’ve done what Tarpey did up at the impressive Mill Farm stadium.
Four goals, two from the penalty spot, took his tally to seven in three games.
“It was a good day. A long one, a really really long one, but it was worth the trip!” said the Magpies striker, who shot to everyone’s attention for his stunning goal against Dartford last season – and for scoring 43 other ones.
“We played really well, so far we’re loving life in the National League. It was into the unknown for us more than anything but so far so good, we’ve played well and we’ve scored goals. We’ve not been daunted by anyone.
“I’m only speaking from what we have come up against so far, but I’ve been surprised it’s not been a bit more difficult. I don’t want people to read that and see that as anything except what we have done so far, but I didn’t think we would struggle and so far we’ve not.”
He added: “We’ve matched and so far bettered full-time teams and we’re showing to everyone that last season wasn’t a fluke and we’re in this division because we deserve to be.”
Tarpey almost wasn’t playing in the National League at all this season.
He made a huge decision in the summer, and honestly doesn’t know if it’s one he’ll live to regret.
“I went up to Coventry City, had a tour of the ground and facilities and then sat down with them,” said the former Hampton &?Richmond, Farnborough and Aylesbury United forward.
“They made me an offer, and I had to weigh it up. When it came down to it, I just couldn’t make it work.
“I would have had to leave my job obviously, and also relocate. Relocation wasn’t the issue, but I have a mortgage and without going into exact figures I would have been worse off.
“When you look at it, I earn from working full-time, playing at Maidenhead and I would have had to stay in Coventry for a good part of the week. I don’t rent down here, so it was a big decision.
“It’s not all about money. But I have a young boy called Jack who is 19 months old, a fiancée and I can’t afford to just say ‘sod it, I’ll earn less money’ – life doesn’t work like that and I had to be sensible about the whole situation and not dive in head-first.
“It was one of those things, I had to turn it down and only time will tell if that was the right thing to do. I know Coventry are a big club so I had to really think long and hard about it. In the end it just couldn’t work, however hard I tried to make things come together.
“That doesn’t mean I will never go full-time and it doesn’t mean I lack ambition. I’m 28 and I still want to play in the Football League. It’s a big ambition of mine and always will be.”
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