FOOTBALL managers have tried many tricks to motivate their players over the years but it seems one Hereford coach may have struck upon the most novel way yet.

Hereford City striker Dermot Clarke was playing in his side’s first game of the season on Saturday when he was told his wife had gone into labour.

Confused, nervous and tired, the attacker remained on the pitch and, amazingly, scored a goal before again using his pace to great effect by running to Hereford County Hospital to see Natalie give birth to their son Leon.

Dermot, 35, says the whole day is now a bit of a blur which got out of hand when his lift arrived outside their Hunderton home to take him to the match inside Hereford Racecourse.

“Nat wasn’t feeling great but we did not know exactly what was happening,” he said.

“So when my friend turned up she just said go to footie – and I did.”

Colin Earley, one of Hereford City’s backroom team, was tasked with the job of holding Dermot’s phone and relaying any news. And a call came when the striker was flying up the wing in the closing stages of the game.

“They shouted from the sidelines that Nat was in hospital and in labour,” added Dermot.

“And then they told me to get my mind on the game! It was surreal.”

The day became stranger still when Dermot, a lecturer at Hereford College of Arts, then scored to seal a 3-0 win against Ledbury Town Reserves in the Herefordshire Division One clash.

An unwashed Dermot then hopped into a friend’s car before sprinting the last 500 metres up Union Walk to see Natalie being taken into a delivery suite. And Leon Clarke was born a healthy seven pounds and one ounce later that evening.

Natalie – described by Dermot’s teammates as “the most understanding woman in Hereford” – said her decision to send her husband off to play football may have been down to the fact that Leon is their first child.

“I’d never been through it before so I did not know what was happening when I told him to go,” the 35-year-old said.

“I think he was worried about leaving me on my own but my mum came over and then we were on our way to hospital.

“I called his phone and spoke to a manager but, as I did not know how long it would take, I said they could decide what to do.”

Chris Marshall, the club’s manager, thanked them both for their dedication to his team.

“As a player, Dermot is 100% committed and to have him turn up on Saturday while his missus got rushed into labour just shows how dedicated he is,” he said. “And I’ve got to say for Natalie to say he was fine to come and play football was just unheard of.”

Dermot has the all-clear to be back on the pitch this weekend – although his one football-related request did receive the red card.

“I was trying to think of a middle name beginning with F so that Leon’s initials would be LFC,” explained Dermot, a fervent Liverpool fan.

“But we’ve settled on John due to family links,” added Natalie. “LFC is pushing it too far!”