Straight-talking Matt Doherty loving man-management nous of Mick McCarthy
From Brendan Crossan in Abbotstown
IT’S fair to say there was never any love lost between Matt Doherty and Martin O’Neill. The former Republic of Ireland manager, ousted last November after five years in charge, once chided the Wolves defender for wearing gloves.
O’Neill’s put-down might have been interpreted differently had Doherty been in the manager’s starting XI.
But he rarely was.
When Seamus Coleman was sidelined for over a year with a broken leg, O’Neill put his trust in Cyrus Christie. The Fulham man performed admirably for O'Neill at right back, but struggled at times in an unfamiliar midfield role upon Coleman's return.
Doherty speculated that perhaps his face “didn’t fit” in the Irish camp.
The 26-year-old did, however, win a place in O’Neill’s side towards the latter stages of the Derryman’s reign.
But it still didn’t stop the straight-talking Dubliner issuing a stinging criticism of O’Neill’s managerial style in a radio interview days after his departure.
O’Neill’s tactics, he said, lacked clarity and were “bizarre” at times.
Four months on, does he have any regrets?
Doherty has just one: the timing of his scathing comments was wrong.
But the actual substance, the Wolves man stands over.
At the Republic’s training base in Abbotstown yesterday, Doherty said: “I don't regret what I said. The only thing I might regret is the timing of it. It was a bit soon.
“I've gone onto that radio station before but I had cancelled on them a few weeks before, so when they asked this time around I thought: ‘I don't want to cancel on them again’, so I went on it. The timing was probably not the best, that's the one thing I regret, the timing.”
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2020 opener in Gibraltar, where he’s expected to play in front of Seamus Coleman in a right-sided midfield role, Doherty added: “Dad tells me to be careful all the time: ‘Watch what you say, watch what you say’ - but... what have I said wrong?
“I just don't know if I can stop myself from saying it. I think in my head: ‘Don't say it’, but it just comes out anyway.
“But that's why I'm here. I'm here to answer questions that you ask me. If you ask me a question...I'm not a liar, so I'm not going to try and get out of the question. Just answer it. The answers I give, they shouldn't cause too much trouble unless people take them the wrong way.”
Stationed on the international periphery for so long, reporters and the public could get used to Doherty’s straight-talking approach.
He was also glad to see Mick McCarthy get the Republic job as he'd signed him for Wolves back in 2010 after Doherty had impressed in pre-season friendly while playing for Bohemians.
“It has been a long time but we've not really changed,” Doherty said.
“It's the same relationship and with TC [Terry Connor] as well, so it’s good.”
The fact that Doherty hailed McCarthy’s man-management skills to the high heavens yesterday could have been perceived as another dig at his former international manager.
“You know what you're doing, what you're going to get and he is obviously a very good man-manager,” Doherty said of McCarthy.
“I'm sure the lads will take to him, they have already.
“The atmosphere is definitely different, not just around the players but around the whole place. Everyone seems to be just a bit happier, enjoying it more, training is a bit more fun. So, yeah, the place is definitely different and it is a better atmosphere.”
He added: “Man-management needs to be right or else you can have a bad changing room somehow. If you're not speaking to the lads in a proper way or getting your point across in a proper way, some players need a different type of love from a manager. But my manager at Wolves [Nuno Espirito Santo] and Mick from my time at Wolves and even now, you can see their man-management skills are on point.”
Wolves are flying high [currently seventh in the English Premiership] and face Watford on April 7 in an FA Cup semi-final.
Doherty has been key to the club’s meteoric success as a right wing-back - but he may find himself playing in a slightly unfamiliar role in Gibraltar on Saturday evening.
McCarthy has intimated a few times that he wants both Coleman and Doherty in his starting line-up, with the latter expected to push further forward.
Although Doherty could switch to left back, McCarthy has been impressed by Enda Stevens at Sheffield United who also did well in that position in the closing rounds of O’Neill’s tenure.
“My view would be that I'd be really comfortable and fine with that,” said Doherty on his mooted wide midfield role.
“I don't play right wing now but I am up and down the right wing a lot at club football. I know it would be a lot different but when I was younger I played there so I don't think I’d be uncomfortable playing there. It would be different and it would still take a bit of getting used to, in the defensive phase. But no, I'd be totally happy to play there.”
Asked did Martin O’Neill call him – as he said he would – after his controversial radio interview last November, Doherty smiled and looked nervously at the FAI press officer.
It was time for training…