Twin joy

BUSY week for Matt Derbyshire; an even busier week for his wife. After being at his missus’ side as she gave birth to twin baby boys Braidin and Callum, Derbyshire then scored Blackburn’s last-minute winner at Newcastle.

So which was more important, Matt? The life-changing experience of becoming a father, or the goal that lifted Blackburn up to the heady heights of seventh in the Premier League? 

“It’s been a great week,” Derbyshire said after Saturday’s game. “I’ve become the father of two beautiful children, and I scored the goal which got us the three points today.”

It goes without saying that the whole fatherhood thing is much more significant to Derbyshire than a winning goal against Newcastle. It’s just that… well… football speak doesn’t really allow players or managers to say that kind of thing.

Witness Mark Hughes’ gallant attempt to weave Derbyshire’s fantastic baby news into the context of the match.

“It was a great finish from Matt Derbyshire,” Hughes said. “He has had a great couple of days. He has just become a father with twins waiting for him back home, so it is fantastic for him and his family for him to score the way he did.”

Actually, all flippancy aside, it sounds as if Blackburn behaved in exactly the right way in response to Derbyshire’s desire to be present at the birth of his two sons, allowing him to join up with the squad late.

That is worthy of praise, because football clubs haven’t always dealt with their fathers-to-be in this way. Back in the late 1980s, QPR midfielder Martin Allen was fined two weeks’ wages by his manager Trevor Francis for having the temerity to leave the squad to attend the birth of his son.

Talking about the event in the Observer three years ago, Allen recalled: “We were playing away at Newcastle; my wife was about to give birth and I believe it’s every man’s right to see the birth of his son.

“If he wants to be there, he should be there. Life outside football is more important.

“Anyway, I was in the hotel and I took a phone call at 2am telling me she’s in labour. So I arranged a flight and told Peter Shreeves, the assistant manager, and he said: ‘Good luck, mate.’

“And I got fined two weeks’ wages even though we won 2-1.

“He [Francis] did say to me: ‘No, you mustn’t go home, that would be the worst thing you could do.'”

Thank goodness Blackburn have a good deal more class than that.

Mind you, not all clubs can say the same, even today.

I was told a story of one manager of a club outside the Premier League (who I won’t embarrass by naming) who, earlier this season, tried to whisk a player away from the birth of his child early on a Saturday morning so he could get back to some far-flung part of the country for an away match that afternoon. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and the player was allowed to stay away with his partner and child.

There are, as Martin Allen said, some things in life that are more important that football.


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