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Wednesday 26 June 2019

'Matt could be our first £20m man'

Wolves would command huge fee for highly-rated Doherty, says Fenlon

Matt Doherty in action for Ireland against Wales in the Aviva Stadium last October. Pic: Sportsfile
Matt Doherty in action for Ireland against Wales in the Aviva Stadium last October. Pic: Sportsfile

Seamus Coleman is quite proud of the fact that Everton supporters have a song which boasts about the fact that their long-serving full-back cost the club a measly sixty grand.

Fans of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC have not put a tune to it, but people at the club every now and again make a song and dance about the purchase of their longest-serving player, Ireland defender Matt Doherty.

Costing just €40,000 up front (upped to €80,000 with add-ons) when purchased from Bohemians in 2010, Doherty (26) has turned out to be one of the club's best-ever buys. If Matteo Darmian costs £15m, what would Doherty really be worth in the transfer market?

He could even deliver a massive cash windfall for the club if he leaves for a bigger team.

"Matt is so highly-rated I can't see him leaving for less than £15m if they ever sold him, and with the money in the Premier League now, he could go for £20m," says Pat Fenlon, the manager who gave Doherty his break in senior football, with Bohs.

Reliable

This season, Doherty has scored three goals in the Premier League: only one other defender (Cardiff's Callum Paterson) has scored more.

Reliable defenders are rare; free-scoring full backs even rarer, so it would be a surprise if bigger clubs are not casting an eye over the Dubliner.

"At current market rates, a player like Matt would cost a club at least £12m. And if he was English he'd cost even more as there's a premium with English players in the Premier League," says an Irish source familiar with big-money deals.

The treasurer at Bohemians will also be keeping tabs on the transfer talk, as a clause in any sale guarantees Bohs 10pc of the fee, a cash injection which would make a massive difference to a club which has been financially strapped since their crash in 2010.

Wolves are not a selling club and, in a Premier League world where instability is a byword, having a player on the books for a decade is something to boast about.

Yet it wasn't always easy for Doherty at Wolves, with a lot of downs as well as ups: two loans spells (in Scotland with Hibs and in League One with Bury) and back-to-back relegations.

In the space of a year, Doherty went from a Premier League debut away to Liverpool (September 2011) in front of 45,000 fans, to a Bury debut, on loan, watched by 2,683 punters. Yet he kept his head, was kept on at the club for a decade and is now seen as one of the best full backs in the Premier League.

His attitude has been criticised in the past and his personality grated with some people, Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane are examples of people who found Doherty's nature, brash at times, unappealing.

Fenlon worked with Doherty at Bohs and again at Hibs, and Fenlon feels that Doherty's reputation is undeserved.

"I'm not sure it's a case that his attitude was poor, he was a young boy finding his way in the game," says Fenlon, now working at Linfield as their General Manager.

"Sometimes when a player goes on loan, it doesn't go that well but it benefits the player in the long term as they learn a lot, the ups and downs that come with being a professional.

"OK, at Hibs Matt was maybe a bit sloppy in terms of timekeeping, but those are things that you learn."

Fenlon, who had a spell at Chelsea as a youngster, admired Doherty's drive.

"Matt had a determination to be a player and sometimes that's taken up wrong. Some people call it arrogance or over-confidence.

"What he has is confidence, other people would see it as cockiness, but I'd see it as confidence and a belief that he could play at a high level.

"And you need that as a young boy going to England, otherwise you won't survive over there."

International football has passed Doherty by, largely down to the fact that O'Neill had a blind spot and refused to pick him in a competitive game until two months ago with Doherty claiming his "face didn't fit" under O'Neill, but he could blossom under Mick McCarthy, the man who took him to Wolves in 2010.

He's unlikely to dislodge Coleman at right back (though Doherty is currently having a better season than the Everton man) and McCarthy will do what O'Neill refused to do and find him a place in the team.

And will he still be at Wolves?

"You see the big Premier League clubs playing big money for players who are not proven at that level, Matt is proven at that level and if he keeps improving, people will take note," says Fenlon.

"Could Matt handle playing for a bigger club? No question."

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