Connor Mahoney admitted he’s had to make sacrifices in his personal life to find his love for football again.
Mahoney has just become a dad for the second time and only returned to training on Friday after a week off, a day before Gillingham’s big game with Mansfield.
With his family up north, the on-loan Huddersfield player has plenty going on, but you wouldn’t know it with the quality performances he’s delivering for the Gills.
Mahoney played a key role in all of Gillingham’s last seven goals, whether it’s been from corner kicks, winning penalties, crossing or by scoring himself, as he did last time out at Priestfield against Morecambe, with a superb solo effort.
He was alert enough to win possession in the Mansfield half on Saturday and deliver a cross for Macauley Bonne to finish. Not bad considering the week he’s had.
“I was buzzing,” he said, having spent most of the week with his expectant partner and a 20-month-old. “(I’m a) new dad, that’s two now and it’s been a bit of a tough week.
“I came back down while they were still in hospital and they came out on Friday, it was a special week for me.”
Mahoney moved to the Gills from Huddersfield this summer to get back playing again.
He made just nine appearances in the Championship last season for the Yorkshire side, all from the bench, and only started one league game for Millwall the season before.
Signing for the Gills has given him the buzz back.
He said: “People might not realise but I have not played consecutive matches now since 2018 at Birmingham.
“I knew it would take some games for me to get up to match speed but I surprised myself on the fitness side, I think I have done well.
“I’ve played Saturdays and Tuesdays every game since I have been here, done a lot of minutes, I am enjoying myself and hope that can continue.”
The goal against Morecambe was a sign of that Championship quality, showing good footwork inside the box before picking out the top corner.
“That was unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t really score tap-ins, although I would like an easier goal. I think there was a lot of emotion that came out when I scored that goal, it has been a difficult couple of years.
“To get back playing and enjoying it, to score that goal for me and my family, I enjoyed it.
“Playing football means the world, it was difficult to come into training every day and not really play.
“I had to leave my family back up north. I have a little baby two days old and a baby 20 months old and moved down here on my own. I try and get (to see them) as much as I can, but that was a decision we needed to make as a family.
“For me, to be able to play football and enjoy it again, you have to make some sacrifices and I did for this season.
“The main reason I came was because of the gaffer, we spoke at length beforehand, if it was anyone else I probably wouldn’t be here but the gaffer is a great human and at the end of the day he is playing me, which is the main reason I am here, to play.
“The main decision for me was to get back to enjoying my football and I am thankful for the gaffer and everyone to put their trust in me and bringing me to the club, giving me the opportunity to get back playing - I am loving my time here.”
His assist on Saturday created a goal for Macauley Bonne - the striker’s first of the season.
“I was buzzing for him,” he said. “The first thing I said to him was ‘it’s about time!’
“He’s been playing superb for us, a real focal point for us upfront, he has just been missing that cutting edge but he’s a great player, played at a higher level than this and I knew his goals would come.
“I was made up for him to be able to assist him.”
He’s not the only one he’s helped out - and he’s enjoying being the team’s creative spark.
He said: “That was why the gaffer brought me in, to create and try and give us that extra impetus upfront.
“I scored a goal the other week and I’ve set up a few now, that is my job, the likes of me, DJ (Jefferies) and Jonno (Williams) and it’s not just on Macca to score, we need to score as well and create. I am enjoying my time here.”
Reflecting on the performance against Mansfield, he said: “First half we were really solid, started very well against a top, top side in Mansfield.
“They are going to be right up there, in the top three or four.
“The are difficult to play against, they play a diamond, no wingers, it is hard but first half we dealt with it superb.
“Overall it’s a good point, but it means nothing unless we can go to Crewe (on Tuesday) and pick up three points, then we can look back and think it’s a solid week for us.”