He’s made of stern stuff, and he has been on the receiving end of Roy Keane’s anger in the past.
So Keane’s withering dismissal of Matt Doherty last weekend (“Does anyone really think Doherty is going to turn Spurs into a top-four team? Doherty? Doherty? Really?”), while he was on punditry duty, will not throw the Dubliner off balance too much. Doherty’s had the pleasure of an angry phone call from Keane, so barbs from a TV studio will not hurt too much.
And Doherty, who hasn’t started a Premier League game for Spurs since the 3-1 home defeat to Liverpool two months ago, has enough on his plate as it is, with a weakened position in the first-team hierarchy at Tottenham and his place in the Ireland side, ahead of this month’s World Cup qualifiers, under threat from a reinvigorated Seamus Coleman. Stability and praise at Wolves have been replaced by questioning and rancour at Spurs.
Yet Keane is not the only one who sees a weakness in the Doherty/Spurs alliance. Former Ireland striker David Connolly said on RTÉ radio that “I just can’t see it working out for him at Tottenham. Obviously I want him to do well because I want him to perform well for Ireland, I really don’t think he suits them”.
That was just after the loss to an out-of-sorts Liverpool side, where an empty stadium allowed TV viewers hear Mourinho berate Doherty.
In his ‘Herald’ column, Richard Dunne felt that Doherty could turn it around, but also needed to do all he could to prove to Mourinho that he was a better option at right back than Serge Aurier. Dunne could write a textbook on Premier League longevity for defenders, but he felt the problem was not Doherty’s form as such, but Mourinho’s indecision on whether the 29-year-old really was an upgrade on Aurier, and the basic fact that Doherty was not really a Jose-type player, in Dunne’s eyes a midfielder who happened to defend as well.
But, just months into a four-year deal, could the game already be up for Doherty in London?
The former Bohemians man was a popular figure during his 10 years at Wolves before his £15m move, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have certainly not collapsed since he left; at this stage of the season last term, Wolves were only two points better off.
One media outlet suggested last week that the Spurs boss was “considering making the right-back available for transfer this summer unless his form improves”.
Unless the team’s form improves, chances are that Mourinho will not be there to make such a call on Doherty, and it may need a change of manager for his fortunes to change .
Mourinho often spoke well of Doherty when he was in opposing sides but working well with a player on a daily basis are different sides to football’s coin. He seemed uneasy from early on. He identified another player who arrived at the same time as Doherty, for the same fee (Pierre Emile Hojbjerg) as“an example of a guy who arrived and immediately looks like a guy who was here his whole life.”
Looking at Doherty, the Spurs boss added, “Not every player does that. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult.” He stressed that he still “believed” in Doherty but added that Doherty “admits he’s much better than what he’s showing . . . He’s a player that we trust.”
That was three weeks ago but Mourinho has shown no signs since then that he trusts the Dubliner. He has used him in European games, but not in the Premier League starting XI.
This time last year, Spurs were fifth, one point off the Champions League places; they’re now eighth, a side on the slide.
That slide is not Doherty’s fault but he seems to have been scapegoated by Mourinho. Doherty played under eight managers at Wolves but credited Nuno Espirito Santo for taking his game onto another level. Maybe it will take a change of manager at Spurs, instead of a change of clubs, for Ireland’s £15million man to turn around what is shaping up to be a disaster.