Wednesday 19 June 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'Matt Doherty must look after number one as he enters a crucial phase of his career'

 

Doherty: Set for new contract. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Doherty: Set for new contract. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

It may sound like a dramatic statement but the decisions made by Matt Doherty over the next six months are likely to shape the rest of his life.

The 26-year-old Dubliner's accomplished displays at Premier League level this term have put him into the footballing equivalent of 'Winning Streak'; he's going to do well either way but the right call will determine just how much the Wolves defender walks away with.

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This might read as a joyless take on an exciting time in the development of a player who was forging a respectable career for himself in the second tier until the Portugese-driven revolution at Wolves gave the Swords man the opportunity to show what he could really do when he applied himself.

He has spoken of changes to his diet and lifestyle that have followed a regime change that has uncovered latent talent.

Positive influences have pushed him the right direction, yet Doherty deserves credit for his response to the rise in standards that found out some of his peers.

Now he's got to strike while the iron is hot and make the most of it.

That would be the view of most seasoned professionals who know how fickle the game can be. There's always a danger of a momentum-halting injury or a blip which allows another player to become flavour of the month.

On current form, Doherty looks like a Premier League player for the long haul but he's currently on a contract that was agreed while Wolves were at the top end of the Championship.

It's believed that the right wing-back earns somewhere between £20,000-£25,000 (€22,000-28,000) per week, which is still excellent money.

By all accounts, Doherty is in no mood to rock the boat, and has people around him who have warned of the dangers of getting sucked into an obsession with the riches on offer.

Still, there's a balancing act here and he is also entitled to look for parity relative to high-profile imports. There's always the fear that the loyal servant will be taken for granted.

There are professionals in the Championship collecting more for their weekly work than a player at the top of his game making a difference in the big league.

Doherty's new deal should bring him into the Premier League paygrade. There are indications that he could jump up to around £40,000 (€45,000) a week.

There's scope for an argument that he is entitled to more than that on market rates. Middle-of-the-road players are coining in more.

Saido Berahino was on £70,000 a week at Stoke when he embarked on a two-and-a-half-year goal drought.

West Brom's slide to relegation last term was accompanied by eye-watering tales of wage payments with 30-something midfielders James Morrison and Gareth Barry in the £80,000-a-week category.

It's worth pointing out that West Brom subsequently met with cashflow problems, so it's hard to point to them as standard-bearers.

Premier League wages have spiralled out of control, yet it's not up to individual players to take a principled stand on that.

The reality is that it only takes one good contract negotiation to put a player into that sphere; they generally then tend to stay in that grade as a prerequisite to any move.

That's what would have happened with Barry once he got into premium level at Manchester City.

If Doherty can double his money or more in this imminent round of contract talks there's a fair chance his basic pay will remain at that level for the best part of his remaining playing days.

An alliance with Jorge Mendes would be fascinating, and the interest in securing Doherty's services would suggest that he is now being taken very seriously as an asset.

It's slightly unusual that Doherty has acted without a representative to this point, yet it reflects the fact that he is quite comfortable where he is.

He's got a mind of his own as evidenced by his recent interview criticising Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane which showed that he is capable of doing things his own way rather than being guided by handlers.

Mendes has the bulk of Wolves' better players on his books and signing up with the Portugese super-agent would suggest his immediate future lies at Molineux.

Longer term, it could open some interesting doors too given how the Mendes clients can sometimes move in packs from one base to another.

The rights and wrongs of that are certainly the subject of a worthy debate about the influence that these power-brokers have, and the player would need to go into any arrangement with his eyes open.

Either way, he's entering a period with life-changing potential.

Irish Independent

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