Football

Matt Doherty Wants To Cap Off 'Perfect' Few Years With Tournament On Home Soil

Matt Doherty Wants To Cap Off 'Perfect' Few Years With Tournament On Home Soil

It's been a massive few years for Matt Doherty. Having spent most of his career playing further down the English football pyramid, he has gone on to establish himself as one of the best fullbacks in the Premier League over the last couple of seasons.

After starring at Wolves, he was a main priority for Spurs manager Jose Mourinho during the most recent transfer window, making a £16million switch North London.

While his club career has been on the ascendancy for quite some time now, this is his first proper opportunity to make a real impact in the Ireland team.

Doherty has had to spend the last few years acting as understudy to captain Seamus Coleman, making only sporadic appearances. With Stephen Kenny in charge, he seems to moved ahead of the Everton man in the pecking order.

Much has been made of the rivalry between the two, but Doherty says his relationship with Coleman is a very healthy one. Speaking to the media ahead of tomorrow's Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia, the Spurs man said that both players understand the difficult dilemma Ireland managers have found themselves in.

There's no rivalry like that. I think we motivate each other. When I play he is fully supportive, when he plays I'm fully supportive.

We understand the situation, that there's two of us that happen to be playing most of the time at big clubs and playing well. There's no animosity between us at all, we're quite good friends. Although, he didn't answer my call last night so I don't know what that was about!

Other than that we're pretty close. He will probably be texting me later on wishing me all the best for tomorrow, so the relationship is very healthy.

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It is likely that the role Doherty played at Wolves is one of the reasons he has had to wait for this opportunity.

Under Nuno Espirito Santo, the Dubliner operated almost exclusively at wingback, with far more emphasis placed on his attacking duties in comparison to what he was asked to do closer to his own goal. With Ireland having hardly played the most expansive football in recent years, questions over his defensive ability have counted against him.

At Spurs, a club he admitted he jumped at joining once the opportunity arose, he has been used in a back four. It is a role Doherty admits he is still getting used to, but one he feels he is already making progress in.

Defensively there is a big shift in what you have to do. I've realised that when you play wingback you don't actually have to defend as much.

At fullback you properly have to defend. You have a lot of 1v1s, you have people running off the back of you, you have to be switched on at all times, body position.

Everything about it defensively is totally different. The first month hasn't been easy on the pitch. I'm working and they're telling me what I need to do, I already feel like I'm improving with certain little things they're asking me to do and trying to change my game defensively.

It's not straightforward but it's something that I'm really enjoying.

Doherty wasn't at his best during the most recent international window, although that is something that could be said about the vast majority of players in the squad.

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Much of that was likely to do with the timing of the fixtures, essentially acting as pre-season to their club campaigns. They will be sharper now having had a few games under their belt, while they will also be more familiar with that Stephen Kenny will demand from his players.

The new Ireland boss has had very little face-to-face time with his squad, but as Callum O'Dowda recently outlined, he will have them well drilled with what is required in Bratislava.

Kenny has spoken about Ireland players 'taking responsibility' in the game, something Doherty interprets as being given the freedom to put their own stamp on the match.

We obviously have patterns of play, but if somebody wants to do something special and take a few people on and put the ball in the back of the net, you're not going to say no

I think what he means by 'taking responsibility' is maybe don't pass it to somebody and let the ball go out wide and cross the ball in that way, maybe take responsibility by beating a man and getting a shot off. I think it's probably more stuff like that...

There's a lot of ways people can take responsibility on the pitch, and I hope that is the case tomorrow and we take the game by the scruff of the neck and show people how good we can actually be...

It's not going to happen overnight, it will take a few more training sessions to get the philosophy across. It's already coming across in training, so hopefully it will click for us tomorrow night.

As for the player himself, he is fully aware of the importance of this game.

Reaching the Euros would cap off what has been a fantastic few years for Doherty on a personal level and he feels that the opportunity to play in a major tournament on home soil is something that cannot be missed.

Things for the last three or four years have gone almost perfectly for me really, I wouldn't change anything apart from this.

If it were to happen it would be really special, especially considering the games in Dublin. Hopefully there will be fans back in the stadium by then, the atmosphere in the country would be special.

It would be pretty flat, it wouldn't be the same if we were all at the Euros in Dublin and Ireland weren't there.

SEE ALSO: Robinson Reveals Offensive Messages He Received After First Ireland Call-Up

Gary Connaughton

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