Alfie Pavey is flying high in the scoring charts – and has credited Steve Morison and Byron Webster for their help following his summer release by Millwall.
The 22-year-old South Londoner is the top-scorer at Dartford with 12 goals in 15 appearances.
And the Kent club – leading the way in the Vanarama National South – will be under the spotlight on Sunday as they look to cause an FA Cup upset against Swindon Town at Princes Park.
Pavey knew around last Christmas he was likely to be let go by the Lions as he failed to even get game time in the EFL Trophy.
Manager Neil Harris sat down with him at the club’s Calmont Road training ground to confirm he would be a free agent at the end of their League One campaign.
“The worse thing was I watched all the lads go back to pre-season training and I’m not going back,” said Pavey. “All my mates were there.
“I was waking up every morning and I was sort of lost. I didn’t know where my head was at. I was so used to getting up and seeing the boys.
“I turned to Byron and Moro. I still speak to them at least once or twice a week. They played a big part in the mental side, how I was going to keep moving forward and doing well.
“I know I can pick up the phone and call any of the senior pros and ask for advice.
“Steve is a striker like me and played in non-league for the likes of Bishop’s Stortford.”
Pavey scrolls through his mobile phone to find a text from the Lions vice-captain.
“He put ‘keep enjoying by doing it right’,” said Pavey. “That means keep doing the right things and that will lead to you enjoying your football, getting your rewards and back to where you want to be again.
“I feel I can get back into the Football League but it is going to be hard work. I need to prove I can play at that sort of standard first.”
Pavey initially signed for Welling United in June but was on the move to Dartford, who he had previously had a loan with, by mid-August.
“I had an option in the Conference Premier but I had never found my level where I’m comfortable at,” he said. “I’d always gone out on loan, played the first two matches and then I’d get dropped even though I thought I had been doing well.
“I hadn’t got that consistency. Dartford had four strikers at the time and Welling had two – I thought I was going to play more. It turned out I made the wrong decision. I held my hands up and gave Tony [Burman, Dartford’s manager] a ring. We sat down and decided to take it month by month. Luckily enough it’s gone well for me.”
Pavey last week signed a contract until the end of the season. It was a payback for Burman handing him a second opportunity.
“He was there when I need help and I’m very grateful for that,” said the Southwark-born forward. “I’m not looking to move anywhere. I want to get a full season under my belt, play some games and score some goals.
“There has been a little bit of talk about interest but I don’t care about any of that. I’m a Dartford player and I’m happy. That’s all I need right now.
“I had two Conference Premier loan moves that haven’t really gone well. Maybe I needed to take a step down. I didn’t expect it to go this well.”
Pavey’s chances of making a late play for a fresh Millwall contract were not aided by the emergence of Harry Smith.
It was the former Folkestone Invicta man who took his chance in the EFL Trophy last season – scoring on his Lions debut at Luton Town.
Pavey could face Smith, on loan at Swindon Town, this weekend.
“I just feel my chance got taken away from me – that’s all I’ll say,” responded Pavey.
“I thought I would get my first start for Millwall against Luton. It didn’t happen. I sat on the bench and didn’t even get on.
“Other young lads were getting starts but I wasn’t involved against Wycombe either. I was thinking if I can’t get a game in the Checkatrade Trophy then am I going to ever get a game? Is there a future for me?
“I went to the manager’s office and asked exactly that. He said he respected me as a lad – I’d done nothing wrong in terms of my behaviour – but that he couldn’t see me going forward anymore.
“He said it was not over for me, it was still 50-50, but I think deep down I knew my time was up. You crack on though and hope there might still be a chance.
“The fact the gaffer gave me a bit of a warning prepared me.
“Neil was my manager at under-23 level for the last two years, I worked quite closely with him. He has taken time to pull me out of training and do certain things with me. I’ve got so much respect for the man.
“I couldn’t wish him, Livers [David Livermore] and the rest of the backroom staff any more luck.
“It is a great club with great people. The way I got treated there, you want to be there forever. But that’s not the case. You don’t perform and your time is up.
“On the side of respect, it is the most respectful club I’ve seen.”