The rejuvenation of Matt Doherty has been quite the welcome development for Ireland supporters.
While his performances at international level rarely wavered, the defender had been a bit part player at best during the first 18 months of his time at Spurs. Consecutive managers seemed to lack faith in his abilities to nail down a place in the starting XI and it look as though his decision to leave Wolves had been a misguided one.
However, things have changed drastically over the last couple of months.
Under Antonio Conte, Doherty has become an integral part of the side as Spurs make a top four push. Having seen his playing time steadily increase since the turn of the year, he has now started each of their last five league fixtures, a run which includes a goal and three assists.
It certainly looks as though his luck in North London has turned, although there were times when he questioned his future at the club.
Matt Doherty reveals lowest moment at Spurs
Speaking to The Guardian, Doherty recalled his lowest moment at Spurs. It came after being left out of the matchday squad for a trip to Aston Villa in March of last year, with the Irishman forced to sit on the team bus as Jose Mourinho opted to name a couple of academy players on the bench ahead of him for the fixture.
I went to get off the bus and it was Covid at the time, so you weren’t allowed in the changing room if you weren’t in the squad. Ledley [King], who was the assistant coach, was like: ‘You’ve got to stay on the bus.’ Once the game started I was allowed to go into the stands.
So now I was just sat on the bus on my own. Genuinely, because it was the international break straight after, I was so close to just getting in the car and going. I think [Republic of Ireland] were meeting in Manchester anyway.
I didn’t in the end, I decided I’d stay and watch the game and then go.
I’m glad I didn’t. It’s just not professional, is it, to do that? In your head you’re sitting on the bus and thinking: ‘What’s the point in watching the game? I might as well go.’
There were kids, and that’s no disrespect to kids, on the bench. [Mourinho] was trying to prove a point to everybody, not just for me but for the players who weren’t there either, but it was not fun.
It took some time after this to really find his best form, although he is now thriving once again.
Doherty believes it was his hard work that eventually won over Conte, with the manager initially seeming unsure of his place in the squad.
You know the formation he wants to play but you still have to gain his trust. I didn’t play at the start: I just kept my head down, trained as hard as I could, did whatever I could in training and I think he saw I was fit all the time, I wasn’t picking up injuries.
Even then I was in and out and then against Leeds I nailed it down and have been in ever since.
Stephen Kenny will certainly be delighted to see Matt Doherty back to his best.