Friday 18 January 2019

Wolves at Reds' door

Doherty ditches gloves as he seeks another Cup shock at Anfield

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, pictured here congratulating Southampton manager Claude Puel at the end of Wednesday night’s League Cup semi-final second leg, will aim to get back to winning ways tomorrow
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, pictured here congratulating Southampton manager Claude Puel at the end of Wednesday night’s League Cup semi-final second leg, will aim to get back to winning ways tomorrow
Wolves’ Irish star Matt Doherty celebrates his goal in the FA Cup third round win at Stoke earlier this month

Anfield, in a way, is where the story began for Dublin-born defender Matt Doherty.

The 25-year-old Wolves defender, who made his league debut away to a Luis Suarez-inspired Liverpool back in 2011, returns to the famous old venue tomorrow where the hope is that the season for Doherty and his team-mates does not end but can have something of a glorious finish.

Liverpool's midweek defeat to Southampton means that the FA Cup is now the only hope of a trophy for that club, so the temptation to rest players may not come as easily to Jurgen Klopp.

But the Cup is also the sole route to success for a Wolves side who are mid-table in the Championship. An ambitious and confident individual, Doherty is frustrated at how the season has panned out for Wolves and the defender is also eager to end his status as an uncapped Irishman.

Dislodging Seamus Coleman from the Ireland team is just about the biggest task in Irish football as Doherty - a natural right back who now plays at left full for his club - knows. Short-term, taking on a slightly-desperate Liverpool side on their home patch is also a challenge but one that the Wolves players should not shirk, especially as they got to this stage of the competition by beating a Premier League side (Stoke) away from home - Doherty scoring with a stunning free-kick in that game.

"The players in the Liverpool squad are better players than us but they're not that much better, it's not like we can't hold our own or play our own game, we will be able to cause them a threat," says Doherty ahead of that trip to Anfield.

"I enjoy these games. I can't wait for this one, you get to see if you are actually good enough to play against this level of opposition. A Premier League side like Liverpool are the top bracket of opposition so if you can do it against them, it should give you the confidence to do it against lesser players.

"I actually made my Premier League debut for Wolves at Anfield so it's a place I am fond of. I will enjoy it tomorrow."

The modern-day view of the FA Cup sees even lesser clubs playing weakened teams in the competition but Doherty still expects to play. "We made seven changes against Stoke and we still beat them in the last round but, as players, we all want to play in the Cup," says former Bohemians man Doherty.

"Some of the boys might be rested for the FA Cup games but they are probably sick at missing out. I'm fortunate in that we don't really have another left back so the manager can't rest me.

"If you don't want to play in these games, Stoke away and Liverpool away, then there's something wrong with you."

Having joined Wolves from Bohs in 2010, Doherty is one of the longest-serving players at the club and is an ever-present in the league this term, but his career took an unexpected twist last weekend when he ended up in goal.

A red card for keeper Carl Ikeme, after all three subs had been used late on in their league game with Norwich City, forced Wolves to improvise and the only Irishman in their side got the nod and got the gloves, not because of some GAA background but just by necessity. Beaten twice, including a Robbie Brady penalty, it was a harsh experience for Doherty as he joined the list of outfield Irish players who took over in goal (Niall Quinn, John O'Shea and Steve Staunton also did the honours in goal at one stage in their careers).

"The funny thing is, at training two days before that game, me and two of the other players were having a chat, we said that one thing we'd love to do before the end of our careers was to get half an hour in goal in a competitive game," Doherty says.

"So when it happened the gloves were just given to me, I looked at the bench, they said 'ok' so I just pulled on the keeper's shirt and played on. I conceded two goals so it clearly didn't go that well, I just fell over for Robbie Brady's penalty. I don't think I'd fancy going in goal again, the main thing that struck me was that when you play in goal, you can't affect the game at all. And I looked tiny in the nets."

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