AS the father of two young children, Tony McMahon loves Christmas.
Watching Luca and Myla open their presents tomorrow morning will be a special moment, as will sharing the big day with wife Lynsey and the rest of their family.
As enjoyable as he expects Christmas Day to be, however, he also admits to looking forward eagerly to tearing himself away from all the festive celebrations to join up with the Bradford City squad ahead of Monday’s tussle with leaders Scunthorpe United.
“I have two kids so I love Christmas time,” the 30-year-old told The Yorkshire Post. “As a footballer, though, it is hectic.
“Often, Christmas night has been spent in a hotel preparing for a game. Or at least training with the lads during the day. But I always loved that.
“I have been in football so long that I am used to it. My missus is used to it as well, same with my family. We just get on with it.
“Everyone comes to us and we enjoy Christmas Day together before daddy usually has to get off to work.
“With the kids so young, it can be hard to leave them. Christmas is a family time but, as a footballer, it is also our busiest. You have to watch what you eat, what you do.
“Last year was unusual, in that we were given the day off (by then manager Phil Parkinson). It gave me time to spend with the kids, which was brilliant.
“We just reported at the ground on the day of the match. I can’t remember how we got on, but we must have won because we probably wouldn’t have had another day off for the rest of the season.”
City’s Boxing Day game with Burton Albion a year ago fell victim to the weather and was postponed amid the floods that left parts of West Yorkshire devastated.
Scunthorpe are the festive visitors this year and manager Stuart McCall has followed the lead of Parkinson 12 months ago by giving his squad tomorrow off.
This show of faith is something that McMahon and his team-mates are determined to repay with three points against The Iron.
McMahon is likely to be on the bench for the third consecutive game after making a long overdue return from injury in the Checkatrade Trophy win over Cambridge United earlier this month.
A torn thigh had kept McMahon out for more than three months and he admits to being far from the ideal patient.
“I am sure the missus and kids were glad to see the back of me,” he says about his return to full training.
“I probably did their heads in. They will have been buzzing when I went back to work properly. I am not patient when frustrated and not playing made me snap a little.
“Being injured is horrible, not nice at all. It was so long since I had last been out that it came as a bit of a shock.
“As a footballer, you just want to play football and be happy. When that gets taken away, it is hard.
“But that has gone now, I feel fit and am raring to go. I have been out like this before. I broke my leg and dislocated my shoulder. It doesn’t get any easier, though.
“My two kids and my wife at home did keep me going. I am fortunate to have such a good family behind me.
“Football is full of ups and downs. My old Academy manager used to say to me, ‘Take the ups with the downs’. That is what I have done.
“Yes, it was frustrating. But I was behind my own downfall by trying to get back too quick. That was me being me and rushing back.
“I hated missing games, but ended up missing more than I should have. The great thing is there is a lot of the season still to go.
“We haven’t even played everyone yet in the league. Hopefully, I can hit the ground running and get back to how I was at the start of the season and enjoying myself.”
Now fully fit, McMahon is ready to play his part in helping Bradford go one better than last season’s losing appearance in the play-offs.
A poor run that yielded five points from as many games means the top three have got away from McCall’s side in the table, meaning a strong festive period is paramount.
“League One is as tight as ever,” said McMahon. “We have seen nearly everyone now and there is nothing to fear. We have got a squad that can challenge for automatic. That is what we are doing.
“At the start of the season, that probably wasn’t our expectation if we are honest. But we have exceeded that now and have got to where we are, at the right end of the table and looking up.
“This is a really good squad. So was last season, if I am honest. It was the same when I got to the play-offs with Sheffield United.
“What stood out in all three of those squads was the togetherness. That is what stood us in good stead last year and is doing the same this time as well.
“The gaffer inherited six or seven good lads from last year and has added quality players who are also good people. That is why the squad is so together and why we are doing so well. That and the good football we have been playing.
“As for me, I just want to do my bit. There are loads of games coming up. Getting back out there for the first time was the big thing and then I just take it from there.
“There is a massive part of the season to go. Everyone loves the run-in so I want to be part of that.”