L_..a _---._ _. 6 The List l6—29 July l993

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He’s managed seventeen clubs from Rotherham to Sydney Olimpic, and once sacked George Best. At 65, TOMMY DOCHERTY tells Tom Lappin why Manchester United are still special.

long with fashion and pop music, soccer is a sure-fire way of conjuring up the not- so distant past in a single evocative image. Jimmy Johnstone’s early 70s body swerve was soccer’s T. Rex, exhilarating, unpredictable and fleeting, while Jim Baxter personified 60$ self-destructive hedonism. and Charlie Nicholas 80$ flash and cash without the substance.

in the same way, Tommy Docherty was the mid- 70s. in red wing-collared polyester shirt and broad- knotted garish tie, the Doc displayed no more sartorial know-how than his managerial contemporaries, but unlike most of them. he could talk it as well as walk it. Bossing a Manchester United team renowned for its inconsistent entertaining brilliance, he was never short of a brisk one-liner or a sardonic jibe. For five gloriously erratic years from 1972—77, the Doc was top of the tabloid pops. the Gary Glitter of the First Division. And, unlike Gaz, he went out with a bang (literally).

in today’s sterile soccer climate where the Scottish managerial set- up is entirely devoid of character (Jim Leishman and Ally MacLeod were the last of their breed) and England, post-Cloughie, reduced to a few desperate outposts of personality like ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson, it’s difficult not to yearn for the glory days when the ‘boss’ was a star, two parts Ceaucescuesque tyrant, to one part philosopher and one part bawdy stand-up comic. Few (make that nobody) played the role better than Docherty, the glib Gorbals boy, latest in a line of Scots soccer gurus that includes Bill Shankly and Sir Matt Busby.

The Doc had a career encompassing seventeen managementjobs ranging from the Scottish national side to a Greek club based in Sydney. ‘l’ve had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus, but he used them better,’ he has said on many an occasion. At his nadir, Preston offered him £10, 000 to terminate his contract amicably. ‘l told them they’d have to be more amicable than that.’ At the other end of the scale, it was at Manchester United that he truly shone, building an exciting young team from scratch, winning the Second Division title at a canter and taking the FA Cup in 1977. In soccer terms, the future looked rosy, but unfortunately, off the field, the Doc was having it away with the physio’s wife, Mary Brown. In the overly moralistic Manchester United boardroom, that meant one thing: the push.

It hurt at the time, but sixteen years on, Docherty is generous about the club that sacked him. So generous that he’s written a book about them, Manchester United: Champions, with journalist Martin Chilton. it’s a witty, informed and mostly objective look at . i a monolithic giant of a club who had to wait 26 years between championship

‘ln red wing- ' collared polyester shirt and broad- knotted garish tie, the Doc displayed no more sartorial

know-how than his managerial : contemporaries, but ' unlike most of them, he could talk it as well as walk it.’

triumphs. A club Docherty still loves.

“That’s a thing that never dies,’ he says. ‘They were very good to me. the supporters were brilliant to me when l was there. When I go back today I still get a great reception. l’ve got very very fond memories of my time there. Disappointments as well of course.’

Not that Docherty was at all ashamed about the circumstances of his dismissal. He and Mary are still together (although when visiting other clubs he usually made a point of asking the physios ‘how’s the missus?’ with a cheeky grin). ‘There were different moral values in those days.’ he says. ‘But when you see what’s going on in the game today . . . At the time i expected to be dismissed obviously, but when you look at the game today, I’m an angel. if they’re sacking people today for things like that there’d be no directors of football clubs, no chairmen.’

Out of the bedroom and back on the field of play. Docherty’s book gives credit where it’s due, without becoming the sort of bland celebration this sort of ‘soccer souvenir’ usually entails. On the subject of current manager and fellow Scot Alex Ferguson, Docherty has mixed feelings. ‘l don’t like him as a bloke. i think he’s a bully. He’s an outstanding manager, but as a person I’ve not got a lot oftime for him. It’s fine to be a disciplinarian, but you can have the common touch can’t you, which he hasn’t. There’s very little humility about him.’

Funnin enough, Docherty’s criticisms of Ferguson are uncannily close to the ones levelled at the Doc himself by some players he worked with at Manchester United. Former Scottish international Willie Morgan accused Docherty of being a bully and egotist. sentiments echoed by former assistant manager Pat Crerand. George Best called him a ‘liar and a bullshitter’ on TV, although to be fair Best was visibly completely pissed at the time. Other players speak fondly of the man’s humour and footballing brain. Strong characters evoke strong reactions.

‘You’ll always get players who have soured a bit,’ he says, ‘But players who’ve become managers themselves have come back to me and told me i was right. I saw Lou Macari last week and 1 said “How’s it going Lou?” and he said “Bloody players, l’m going offmy head.” I said “You were worse than half of them when you were a player Lou. You’re moaning and groaning now, and you used to moan at me.” We were always falling out Lou and l but he was always the first man in my team, because he was a great little player, and personal feelings don’t come into it. He was always chasing money and new contracts, and now players are doing the same thing

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love will tear us apart: with Mary Brown, cm of his sacking at Man Utd.