Matt Doherty is in danger of becoming the next Wes Hoolahan if he doesn’t start in the upcoming UEFA Nations League games against Denmark and Wales.
The 26-year-old recently won the PFA Fans’ Player of the Month in the Premier League. Yet, he can’t get into an Irish XI ahead of Cyrus Christie.
Even at Championship level, Doherty was a shining light in Wolves’ promotion bid, which, given current options, should have seen him a shoo-in for that Ireland team.
And yes, the Seamus Coleman (who turns 30 tomorrow) argument is very valid. He’s a top performer, he’s captain and he’s going to be hard to replace.
But, is our minnowism coming to the surface that we refuse to replace him with someone who’s in better form in the same division?
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Coleman, for so long, was the only player that even remotely resembled footballing talent at national level and while we’ve all been congratulating ourselves in the meantime for his above-average ability levels, Matt Doherty has bypassed him.
The Donegal native is beloved and a move from O’Neill to replace him might not go down well in the immediate. But, it would show that players don’t have a divine right to be in the team, the squad or even the camp.
And with the captain turning the big three-oh, we need to look past these notions we have of players being eternal just because they’re generational. It would certainly lend itself to the theory that we’re turning a corner in terms of youth development.
As a manager, your job is to find a system that best suits your players at hand and while our resources are limited, experimentation with the Everton skipper could be complementary to a national side in need of a rejig.
Neither short-term success or a long-term plan scream that Doherty needs to be kept out under the current regime, so he comes in at all costs.
Given the lack of success our footballers are having at the highest level – constantly used by O’Neill as justification for resorting to the tried and tested – to not have an Irish PFA Fans’ Player of the Month in the XI completely undermines his thinly-veiled excuses for his own shortcomings.
First, he wasn’t in the top tier. Secondly, he wasn’t performing.
Then, he didn’t get forward enough – before contributing to three goals in as many weeks.
Now – Seamus Coleman is captain and he can’t be replaced.
Well, he can and he will. The smoothness of that transition going forward depends on how much time Doherty gets in both the team and training setup in the immediate.
It’s a manager’s job to figure out how to play these players in the same team, because that’s what he’s paid to do.
Yet, he’ll return to his clichés. While a previous piece alluded to the success we may be seeing at U17 level, the senior side’s ceiling is being significantly lowered by a man who believes it’s his way or the highway.
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