DOH LOOKING TO MAKE IMPACT
By Ben Romaner. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
GARY DOHERTY has been recalled to the Republic of Ireland squad for their friendly with Denmark next week, and soccer stattos Opta have decided to investigate his recent good form, that has transformed Tottenham's season and made Mick McCarthy sit up and take notice.
The versatile Doherty has been playing in a defence, that has kept five clean sheets, and the last time they conceded a goal in open play was 517 minutes ago. He has made 60 clearances in his seven starts for the club - an average of one every 11 minutes in the Premiership - as he has formed a solid back-line with Chris Perry and Sol Campbell.
But Doherty really endeared himself to the notoriously hard-to-please White Hart Lane faithful for his recent display at Charlton in the FA Cup. With Spurs' season seemingly crumbling before them, as they trailed 2-0, up stepped the powerful performer like a man-mountain to breathe new life into a stale, despondent team.
With a catalogue of strikers unavailable for selection for George Graham, he drafted Doherty into attack to partner Sergei Rebrov and it was the young Irishman's powerful run and cross that was turned in by Richard Rufus for an own goal, kick-starting Tottenham's magnificent four-star comeback at the Valley.
His coup de grace was an assist for Rebrov to seal matters in the dying seconds of the cup-tie. But despite such success, the former Luton man prefers a defensive role. He said: " I do really enjoy it at the back, keeping the five clean sheets as a defender is what you want". And after winning 16 out of 24 tackles in the Premiership, you can see why Doherty feels at home at the back.
Doherty's only Premiership start as striker was the disappointing 3-0 defeat at Ipswich, where he failed to get much change out of Town's defensive trio of Titus Bramble, Mark Venus and Hermann Hriedarsson.
Despite impressing Doherty can nevertheless be a bit clumsy. He has conceded 21 fouls this term - an average of a misdemeanour every 33 minutes in the league - but he will improve as he becomes more accustomed to playing at the top-level.
And his versatility gives both Graham and Eire boss Mick McCarthy plenty of options as to where to put Doherty. Although both managers have hinted that his best position is at the back, the enthusiastic Doherty is not one to argue with such senior figures, and that can only advance the development of his career.