to him and they’re the biggest rascals under the sun. There was never a bigger rascal than Louie. George Graham was the same, Terry Venables, they all used to moan on at me, now they’re on the receiving end and saying I was right.’
Ferguson returns Docherty’s antipathy, labelling him ‘old and bitter’. ‘l’m certainly not bitter,’ Docherty responds with some asperity. ‘Football’s been marvellous to me. It’s given me a great life and standard of living. The difference between Fergie and me is that I could play the game and he couldn’t. When you start putting the Scottish caps together 1 don’t think he’s got any. I’m not bitter, but I do get annoyed at him because he’s so stupid sometimes. And there’s nothing I can do about getting old, that happens to all of us. I wish I could find the elixir for that, and I only hope that he’s as ﬁt when he’s 65 as I am now.’
Docherty’s penchant for verbal dexterity gets him into trouble. He tends to go for the felicitous gag without considering the hurtful implications. That said, it’s difficult not to smile at his brutal assessments of the deficiencies of players like Gary Birtles (‘if Gary had aimed twelve shots at John Lennon, he’d still be alive today.’) and Ralph Milne (‘l’ve seen milk turn quicker’). Diplomacy isn’t exactly his strong sun.
‘A diplomat is a fella who tells you to piss off and you actually look forward to the trip,’ he
‘Players like Currie, Hudson and Bowles were players trying to become stars, whereas nowadays we’ve got stars trying to become players.’
says, somewhat enigmatically. ‘l’ve always spoken my mind, which is probably why I’ve had so many managerial jobs. I’ve never been a yes man. I’ve always been brought up to say what you think so people know where they stand with you.’
Docherty’s personality tends to overshadow his footballing achievements, but to his credit he was a manager who emphasised the importance of playing adventurous and entertaining soccer. At Chelsea in the 605 he built a side so renowned for its continental ﬂash that the West German national squad played practice matches against them (and got beaten). He revived Scotland’s fortunes in the early 705, and, with Manchester United, built a squad trimmed of the dead wood that had seen them relegated in 1974.
‘My team cost nothing,’ he says. ‘We needed an outstanding goalkeeper which we could have had, but the money wasn’t there for Peter Shilton. He would have given us that bit of steel that I felt we always lacked. We were always third or fourth from the top, a cup side, great to watch. Ferguson’s side is as well, but when it’s cost 20 million quid it’s not too difficult is it?’
Docherty does keep in touch with the Scottish game (that is to say he reads the Record every day and the Mail and Post on Sundays) and is as despairing about the national team as any other Scot.
‘I look at the team and you can discard half of
TOMMY DOCHERTY FEATURE
them,’ he says. ‘Why is Andy Roxburgh ﬂying all over the country looking at players. Andy Roxburgh’s been in the job seven years, if he doesn’t know his best players by now there must be something wrong with him. And this dispute with Richard Gough shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Personal opinions shouldn’t come into it. Look at Paul McGrath with Jack Charlton. He didn’t turn up for the match, Big Jack took him aside and he’s back in the team. You need great players and you’ve got to appreciate the fact that they are great players because they’ve got a mind of their own, and they speak up and say what they think. If they do the business on the park, what does it matter what he thinks of you?’
‘People said players like Currie, Hudson and Bowles were villains, they weren’t, they were characters. They had minds of their own. If you treated them like men they behaved and played like men. They were players trying to become stars, whereas nowadays we’ve got stars trying to become players. Money’s ruined the game down here. You used to get the old story about the hungry fighter, if you’re hungry for something you’ll roll your sleeves up and you’ll battle to get it. In the football sense they become very rich overnight, they don’t have to exert themselves at all. 25 per cent of the lads today are good pros who look after themselves and play to the best of their ability, they do the business. But 75 per cent are a waste of time.’
When Docherty was the national team manager in the early 705, it was a part-time post, a set-up he believes would still work, citing the example of Jack Charlton, who fits in his duties as manager of the successful Republic Of Ireland team around his shooting and fishing engagements. ‘I loved the national job,’ Docherty says, ‘and I’ve still got the most successful record of any of the Scotland managers in terms of losses and wins.’ Indeed he has, although the national side’s subsequent record makes it a somewhat muted honour.
In an era when soccer management is becoming the domain of furrowed-brow touchy neurotics like Roxburgh and Graham Taylor, whose results don’t even justify their uptightness, perhaps the Doc’s philosophy of letting players express themselves, and not regarding the press as public enemy number one is due a revival. Docherty might play up his enjoyment of his role as a media observer and critic, but you get the impression he feels a little marginalised, and regrets not being still on the inside lane.
‘1 think people like myself and other managers when they get a bit older would still be an asset to clubs or national teams, even on a consultancy basis,’ he says. ‘Older managers get discarded too easily, instead of saying “Hey this fella knows something about the game”. Have a young manager by all means but have the old fella there for a bit of wisdom and a bit of advice.’ Or failing that, he could always crack a few gags and ﬂirt with the physio’s missus. D 3 Manchester United: Champions is published by Sidgwick And Jackson price £9. 99.
The List l6—29 July I993 7