This weekend in the Premier League, Matt Doherty had more touches in the opposition penalty area than anyone else in the division.
But still, our national manager’s indifference to one of the most in-form Irish players playing at a top level lingers over his career.
— Fantasy Premier League (@OfficialFPL) September 16, 2018
In an interview with the Irish Independent’s Dan McDonnell, Martin O’Neill said the following about Doherty’s omission.
“It’s great that Matt is getting the opportunity to play in the Premier League. At club level, it looks as if he can deliver a really good ball when he gets the angle, but I want him when he’s got wide in a forward position to go and test the fullback, to go and take him on.
“Whereas at Wolves he gets to a certain distance and checks back and gives it back. I’d want him to do what Seamus Coleman would want to do or what Cyrus Christie would want to doo which is drive forward.
“Hopefully the experience of playing in the Premier League regularly will stand him in really good stead. I thought Cyrus did fine for us when Seamus was absent.
“Doherty played almost all of last season as a wing back and he might find it hard with us with the likes of those lads ahead of him – particularly with Seamus as our world-class player – but even so these experiences will be helpful to him.”
You wouldn’t even know where to begin with this. First of all, there’s every chance that Doherty is checking his runs and feeding the ball into higher percentage positions because of his manager’s instruction.
Not only does he possess the best name of any manager in the history of the sport, Nuno Espirito Santo has made quite a start to his Premier League managerial career. That structure, openness and downright success is something O’Neill could take note of, rather than ignore.
Second of all, Seamus Coleman is a couple of things – nearly 30, being one – but none of them is world class. The Donegal native is a terrific footballer and looks very comfortable in the top flight of English football, but he’s not worthy of the pedestal he’s placed on, and it merely acts as a reflection of the sorry state in which we find ourselves in, in terms of players.
I once had someone tell me he was both better than Kyle Walker and the best right-full in the world. If you think England are bad, we’re almost worse with the overhyping of any consistent footballer to ever don the green.
Sometimes I have sympathy for Martin O’Neill.
He’s fronting a ship that’s not been maintained by his bosses now for well over a decade and he’s merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
But when you do genuinely have talented players at your disposal, you have to actually utilise them before you get to complain about not having the resources.
Even if you’re adamant on playing a back three, Doherty is a better system fit than Coleman, who could slot in as the right-sided, centre-half.
As for replacing Seamus Coleman – nobody can deny that would be bizarre. But having Doherty behind Cyrus Christie in the pecking order is downright mis-judgement.
You can very easily play Doherty at left back if you need to. He’s done it before and our left back situation has long been our Achilles heel.
While Matt Doherty, a graduate from Irish club Bohemians is bursting with national pride and chomping at the bit to get a look in at the national side, Declan Rice sits on his dual citizenship and gets all the sympathy in the world for his ‘tough decision’.
Wake up, Martin.