MARTIN LING: A sense of expectation at Christmas
ANYBODY who has spent any time around our camp in the last few weeks will have realised that we've had a major event in the offing.
No, it's not a couple of derby games against Exeter City and Plymouth Argyle. It's the imminent arrival of the next Mr Howe.
Or should I call him 'Master Howe?
Torquay United's centre-forward may give the impression of being a big, tough guy on the pitch, and plenty of referees definitely seem to have that idea.
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But get Rene talking about the baby boy which his partner Debora has been expecting – on Christmas Day! – and he immediately comes over the excited, doting dad to be.
This season Ian Morris and Joe Oastler have also become fathers.
If you didn't know it, you only had to look in their eyes first thing in the morning and see that the old sleep patterns have gone out of the window a bit.
As a father of two teenagers myself, you can't help but think back to what a great event it is, even if it does place some extra strain on your professional life.
Footballers can plan their weddings, and the vast majority do it in the close-season, but having babies – well, there's usually no planning for that!
As a manager, I'm always pleased when my players become parents.
I remember the extra boost it gave me when I was a player – you know, the old 'I'm playing for the whole family now' thing.
Even with the lost sleep, I cannot remember a new-dad player who hasn't come to work with an extra spring in his step and a renewed purpose to his work.
We've all been dreading Rene being called away just before a match, because things have started 'moving' at home.
But even then, I'm looking forward to the grin on his face when he comes in for the first time as a dad – and to the extra edge in his performance in the weeks and months afterwards..!