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Matt took the long road but worked hard to be a €16.8m Spurs star

Doherty came through school of hard knocks before big move


The Republic of Ireland’s Matt Doherty, in action during the European Under-19 Championships in Bucharest, Romania in July 2011

The Republic of Ireland’s Matt Doherty, in action during the European Under-19 Championships in Bucharest, Romania in July 2011

The Republic of Ireland’s Matt Doherty, in action during the European Under-19 Championships in Bucharest, Romania in July 2011

More than a dozen British clubs took Matt Doherty on trial and passed up on the chance to sign a young Dubliner who had a strong desire to make a move cross-channel but could not find someone willing to employ him.

Those scouts, managers and recruitment directors who didn't spot the latent talent of the man from Swords have been regretting that for the guts of a decade as Doherty emerged to become one of the finest full-backs in the Premier League.

And that regret will stir even more now, with his €16m move from Wolves to Spurs due to be completed this weekend.

Doherty, who worked his his dad's cleaning business on Dublin's northside, who was frustrated by unsuccessful trial after unsuccessful trial, who was at Bohemians but unable to get into the first team, is officially in the big league - the third most expensive Irish player of all time, once that deal goes through.

The bars at Dalymount Park are closed due to Covid-19 but metaphorical champagne corks will be popping once the deal is finalised as the Phibsboro club are entitled to a 10% cut for the player who cut his teeth with Belvedere and Home Farm but was able to use a spell at Bohs as the springboard for his success.

Bohs officials have kept an eye on the Sky Sports ticker page during most transfer windows in the last two or three years, certain that the clause entitling them to the 10% cut was in place.

The decision by then manager Pat Fenlon to play Doherty in a pre-season friendly against a Mick McCarthy-managed Wolves side in July 2010 proved to be inspired, though in reality his move was not secured that day as McCarthy's chief scout, Dave Bowman, had been made aware of Doherty and was already interested in signing him, but an impressive display by Doherty against Wolves that day did no harm.

It was a grim time financially for Bohs around then as the debts attached to their ill-fated €60m deal to sell Dalymount Park to a property developer threatened to engulf, and extinguish, the club.

At various stages the club were asked if they'd sell back the sell-on clause in the deal to Wolves, where Bohs would get an immediate, short-term cash injection and Wolves then knew they could pocket the entire profit if Doherty was ever sold.

It was a risk, as there was the danger that Doherty might never move, and the small-ish fee on the table would be more important to their survival than a slice of some future transfer that might never happen.

Clubs have been caught out before: Cobh Ramblers got nothing when Roy Keane made his move from Nottingham Forest to Manchester United.

Reading bought back the sell-on clause for Kevin Doyle from Cork City, so they missed out when he made a £7m move to Wolves.

Cork City were so strapped for cash last winter that they flogged off the sell-on clauses back to Preston for the international pair of Sean Maguire and Alan Browne: if they do move on, City get nothing.

The Bohs board held firm in the hope that Doherty - who never played a game for the first team and whose progress must be attributed to schoolboy clubs Belvedere and Home Farm - would move.

Now, it's a matter of completing the paperwork before Doherty comes back to Dublin to prepare for international duty, Bohs planning to invest the cash in a training facility.

Doherty's stats underline why Spurs have moved, the Swords man a key figure in defence but also, as any Fantasy Football enthusiast knows, is also very good value for goals and assists.

A major plus for Wolves from the deal is the fact that Doherty, despite being an Irish citizen, is classed as a 'home grown' player for UEFA purposes when it comes to registering players for the Europa League.

Recent signings like Pierre Emile Hojbjerg had taken Spurs over the 17-player limit for players classed as foreign, but the 10 years spent by Doherty in England allows them to register him as home-produced.

Doherty's progress has not always been smooth.

He has spoken in the past of the frustration he felt from seeing contemporaries at schoolboy level get moves to England at 16 while he stayed put, getting some of his education at the FAI/ETB scheme in the Bogies in Cabra, Enda Stevens another graduate of that course.

There was relegation at Wolves; there were loan spells, at places like Bury and Hibs, not always happy times as Fenlon, his one-time manager at Bohs who again worked with him at Hibs, dropped Doherty due to a poor attitude.

But Doherty worked on all aspects of his game, on and off the field, ditching the takeaways and the fizzy drinks, to become an elite athlete at the top level in England, a long way from early morning starts on a FÁS course in the Bogies.