West Brom v Huddersfield Town: Child’s play for new dads Duane Holmes and Carlos Corberan

Of all the factors driving Huddersfield Town’s surprise Championship play-off push, not many would have had their ability to make babies down as one of them.

West Bromwich Albion versus Huddersfield tonight is a pressure game, for a Terriers team looking to respond to the end of their incredible 18-match unbeaten run, and if they can win it, to the rest of the chasing pack to try to catch up tomorrow.

Huddersfield are perhaps feeling the pressure less than most. Most Terriers fans would have been disappointed if you told them at this stage of the season they would still have been unsure of their Championship status, but that is because for the last two years they have been looking nervously at the relegation zone.

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Whereas clubs like Bournemouth – who they will move above by avoiding defeat – West Brom and Sheffield United were expected to use their parachute payments to win promotion, for Town, this is all a very welcome bonus.

Huddersfield Town’s new dad Duane Holmes enjoys a thumb-sucking celebration after scoring against Derby last month. Picture: Tony Johnson

But a productive youth policy is helping too. Coach Carlos Corberan and forward/midfielder Duane Holmes have something else to take the pressure off having had first children delivered either side of the new year.

“It’s nice to have distractions,” says Holmes, whose son Tiago was born in December. “I normally just take myself fishing and turn my phone off and it’s nice not have to worry about football. It’s a nice distraction going home and seeing him smiling.

“It’s mentally and physically very demanding the sport we’re in so it’s nice to be able to switch off and not worry about the pressures of work.”

If it is a help to Holmes, it is probably an even bigger one to his ultra-intense coach, who he jokes the players might “hopefully get a smile out of” now he has been named Championship manager of the month for February. As the man in charge, the demands of this unrelenting season are even greater on him.

Town's head coach Carlo Corberan. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“It’s important to prioritise your time, it’s key,” concedes Corberan. “It’s complicated to do this because it’s a job you always have on your mind but it’s important to find the moments where you can seperate things a little bit from the games.

“We like to spend our time in the training ground, then when me and the staff go home we know the work has been done. Even if there are more things we can do, we know the necessary things that can affect the performance of the team has been done before we go home.”

As he rolls off the list of things the coaches can do there to unwind, it is no surprise what comes top of the list.

“You can spend your time how you prefer – watching football, with your family and friends, watching a film, reading a book or doing different things,” he says. “That helps us to come back with the energy you need on the training ground.

“I like to be with my wife and my son. My son is only a month old so he needs a lot of attention. It makes it easier to disconnect.

“I have no choice but to give him the necessary time.”

For Holmes, fatherhood brings an extra advantage to his football. His thumb-sucking goal celebration is a reminder of who he is playing for now.

“As a dad you just want to do your best for your kids,” he says.

“It’s more I feel I’ve got to (give everything) because of what my partner Brooke goes through. She’s with him all the time and when I score I just want to let her know it’s for them.”

The result, says Corberan, is “Holmes has had an excellent season with a high contribution to the dynamic of the team.”

If the babies are making them manage their time better out of work, the congested programme is making similar demands in it.

“Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating because we would like to do many things to put the team in better conditions but you know if you do them the team will not be in the right condition mentally or physically,” admits Corberan. “We need to accept what it is, it is the challenge.

“The quality of our work is about making the right decisions and prioritising the things that are going to be key to help the players in that game.

“Sometimes the time we spend on set pieces is not the time we’d like to.

“Usually if you spend too much time on set pieces you cannot spend enough on the defensive or attacking side.

“To prepare for a game in the best way you probably need three days and sometimes we only have one.”

The current work/life balance is doing the trick. Keep playing as well as they have been until May, and nine months later plenty more people in the Huddersfield area will be getting a distraction of their own.

Last six games: West Bromwich Albion WLLLDL; Huddersfield Town LWWWWD.

Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester).

Last time: West Bromwich Albion 4 Huddersfield Town 2, September 22, 2019, Championship.