Battling Doherty lives the dream at last
Matt Doherty is not a man to give up easily. So whether it is proving to himself he can cut it in the Premier League or changing the mind of Martin O’Neill, the Wolverhampton Wanderers defender will guarantee persistence at the very least.
This is, after all, someone who refused to be deterred by rejections from English clubs numbering in the teens before Wolves offered him the chance to move from his native Ireland.
And Doherty is not afraid, either, of taking a chance, having given up on school early to chase his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Had his gamble backfired, he might have remained as his father Tom’s gopher in his carpet cleaning business. Instead, the 26-year-old is living his dream, which continues at home to Burnley today in a game in which Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will be favourites. “I was at 14 or 15 different clubs when I was younger and I didn’t that well when I was away,” Doherty recalls. “There was a lot of disappointment as a kid. Then a preseason game [Bohemians, his Irish club, v Wolves] changed everything.
“I had left school to go on so many trials. There was no point in me going to school because I was always away. It was a risk at the time and it looked like it had backfired for a few years. I was working for my dad and we were in the van all the time having talks. We would say maybe if I play League of Ireland and maybe get across when I was 21, but it has worked out since.”
Even after joining Wolves in 2010, Doherty did not always have it easy. He had loan spells at Hibernian and Bury, played out of position at left-back and suffered Premier League and Championship relegations.
But when Nuno arrived last summer he moved Doherty to a wing-back role and the player has flourished.
However, O’Neill has yet to hand him a start for the Republic of Ireland and recently claimed Doherty needed to “drive forwards” more often. Doherty is guarded with his response, but the situation is a clear source of frustration. “I’ve been around the squads since 2016 but I’ve only picked up three caps, all off the bench for a few minutes,” he said. “I’d like a lot more caps and a few more starts. When I first joined up, it was my defending that was the problem. Now it’s my attacking. Maybe my face just doesn’t fit.”
At Molineux, though, Doherty has found his niche, keeping his place after a summer of big spending. Not that the man himself is taking Premier League football for granted yet. “My dream was always to play in the Premier League,” he said. “I’ve only played four games. I feel there’s a lot more to come.”