Published: 00:00, 26 September 2017
Somewhere north of the M25, Daryl McMahon is sat at home in his office preparing for Ebbsfleet United’s next game in the National League.
To his left is a large flip chart with meticulous notes on the opposition, in front of him a whiteboard with the Fleet squad listed and on his desk an iPad loaded with video clips and scouting reports.
McMahon then pulls open a drawer stuffed with hundreds of files on rival teams, players and managers. This is not a man who leaves his work at work.
Dozens of football biographies and autobiographies line the bookshelf on the far wall: Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Robbie Savage.
"I haven’t read that one!" insists McMahon when I raise an eyebrow at the Savage inclusion. "A friend bought it for me."
But you can bet the rest have been studied carefully.
"It’s one of those jobs it’s very difficult to switch off from," McMahon said. "I’m lucky that I’ve got my wife and daughter so when I come home I can play with Playdough or make dinner and have a glass of wine – but invariably it’ll lead back to something that happened in the day."
So how much of his time does football management really demand?
"It’s 24/7," comes the instant reply. "There’s not really a time when I’m not doing something. I’m fairly hands-on with everyone and accessible to everyone in terms of players and staff or anyone that needs to chat about anything.
"I’ve got a good relationship with all the players and to have that, you’ve got to give them your time."
"I quite like listening to the phone calls," interjects Daryl’s wife Alex, a stockbroker who’s pregnant with their second child. "He’s always on the phone."
"I do leave my phone at home when we go out for dinner," Daryl counters. "On Wednesday I take (daughter) Marnie to school and pick her up. Wednesday afternoon I take her out.
"Saturday is very much football and I might not get back until 9pm even if it’s a home game. I stay in the office for quite a while, dissecting the game and getting ready for the next one.
"Sunday is a family day but I do squeeze in a video of the next opposition before we do anything. My family is the most important thing in the world to me and they buy into what I do."
Football has been Daryl’s life ever since he was a young boy growing up in Dublin. He started at Neilstown Rangers, stepped up an age group to play alongside his cousin for Cherry Orchard and won three All Ireland Cups in a row.
Representative matches for Dublin under-12s followed, in front of scouts from a host of professional clubs in England.
Daryl said: "I started coming across to England every school break with different clubs on trials. I’d go once or twice somewhere and I’d settle or I wouldn’t go back there again.
"I didn’t need many people’s company, even as a youngster. I was happy to go into a new group and get on with what I was doing."
It was West Ham where Daryl’s career took off, the teenager straight away feeling at home in East London. He’d found the right club and was about to find the right girl too.
Alex recalled: "We met in a nightclub in Romford which is very glam – not! I was 17 and Daryl was 16."
Daryl said: "I joined West Ham when I was 15. I lived in digs with 10 other lads in Romford. It was really nice actually.
"I was at the end of my first season when I met Alex and we’ve been together since then.
"We had a long courtship," he laughed. "I wanted to make sure she was the right one so I waited 12 years!
"All my family are in Ireland. When I moved away, they came over when they could but it was just me."
Alex and her family followed Daryl around the country as his professional playing career took him to Port Vale, Leyton Orient, Notts County, Stevenage and Cambridge United.
When he left The Abbey, though, things began to change.
Daryl explained: "I had a couple of offers from other Conference teams but the money wasn’t great. I didn’t fancy having a one-year contract on that wage and then doing it all over again so I needed to take control of my career.
"I wasn’t skilled in any job so when I joined Farnborough part-time, almost as a throwaway thing I said I’d do my coaching badges.
"I was driving to Hatfield to volunteer with a friend of mine, doing some hours because I couldn’t coach. I had ideas but I’d never been out practising it.
"I started doing my B Licence at the end of the second season and when everyone left Farnborough I really got into coaching, went to Boreham Wood and they made me an offer of being a player/coach.
"That taught me a lot in terms of the work ethic at Boreham Wood. They’ve got 500 kids on their college scheme so they do three sessions a day and then train at night.
"It was a lot, mentally and physically but it was a brilliant learning curve for me. I thought 'I’m working flat out, 12 or 13 hours a day and I love it so it must be something I want to do.'"
Daryl’s playing career then took in Eastleigh and Dover before he signed for Ebbsfleet in 2013. He’d played for 12 different clubs in 10 years but was about to put down deeper roots.
"It’s an amazing club," said Alex. "Everyone’s so friendly, the management, the board, everyone’s been very welcoming. It feels like a nice family club.
"Out of all the clubs Daryl’s played at in the last seven years, nowhere has felt as welcome."
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