There are ways to hide in clear view if you are a footballer. City have had some players over the years – and at least one now – adept at this art.
When your team have the ball, you don’t lose your marker. When the opposition have possession, you jog into a covering position, perhaps puffing your cheeks out with the apparent effort, perhaps pointing at other gaps that need plugging, but you don’t actually get yourself near enough to the guy with the ball to do anything about him or to him.
If you are a centre-back, there is another useful little trick. You drop off your opponent, crouch down a small amount onto your haunches and put your arms out at an angle to your body.
It looks as if you are holding the line but you are really avoiding the risk being out-jumped or outmanoeuvred by the guy you are supposed to be guarding.
Gary Doherty has never done any of that. Through all the grim, dispiriting years since he signed for Norwich City, even when calamities have engulfed the team and his own confidence has been shredded, he has never, ever hidden.
No, he’s been going up for headers, putting his foot in, striving to clear balls and exposing himself to the possibility that he might be beaten by a decent striker, that he might win the header but send it to the wrong place, that the ball might shank off his shin or spiral somewhere daft off his toe.
It often has. Sometimes, he has had shockers. But he has never shirked or cowered. He has never stopped trying to put things right.
He did not deserve to be booed when his name was announced at Carrow Road on Tuesday night. And he did deserve the man-of-the-match award because, despite the ignorant abuse from people who claim to support our club, he had a stormer.
And, remember, he did so a few days after being told by that he was unlikely to be part of the long-term future at Norwich City. The defeat at Brentford, which Paul Lambert watched from the stand shortly after becoming Norwich manger, was one of the Doc’s nightmares.
Lambert thought he would manage without the Doc, but he couldn’t.
So let’s be clear about Ginger Pele. He was signed on the eve of Nigel Worthington’s season in the Premiership. Worthy wanted two players for every position and his roster was still short of a striker and a centre-back.
Several deals fell through. The window was closing.
The failure to sign someone else wasn’t about money or ambition. It was about availability and timing.
Worthy opted for a young Tottenham player who could cover both roles. I have written, cruelly, that he is not much good at either, but I retract that now.
When Doherty is good at centre-back, he is very good. He has poor pace and brittle confidence, but he is brave and honest and those who give him no credit for that damage the club about which they purport to care.
While I am retracting criticisms of City players, it’s time to own up that I was horribly wrong about Simon Lappin and marginally mistaken about Chris Martin. I made up my mind about them both on that horrible night at QPR two seasons ago which proved to be the last fixture of Peter Grant’s flawed tenure as manager.
Lappin loped about on the left flank, apparently unable to saunter back when needed. Martin did not even lope about. Their attitude stank that night and, although I did not and would not boo them, I have found it hard to cheer them ever since.
Lappin’s rehabilitation at the end of last season under Bryan Gunn did little to persuade me that he had the athleticism for English football, and when Martin was toiling at the foot of the Football League with Luton, I thought that was probably about right.
Some of those who worked with Martin when he was an England Under-19 international were very critical of his disposition and demeanour.
Lappin has had some excellent games this season, and while his mobility is a condemnation of what he used to show us, his useful versatility is palpable. Martin seems to have regained some of his focus after sampling life away from Norwich, but he has more to give yet.
However, Martin’s arrival as a substitute against Orient said something interesting about Lambert.
The East Londoners were down to ten men and had redeployed their depleted resources into 4-4-1. What normally happens in those circumstances is that the full strength team stay at 4-4-2, which leaves their defenders idle and does not give them any numerical advantage in midfield.
But two minutes after the sending off, Lambert took off Paul McVeigh (who had been playing on the right of midfield) and sent on Martin, who took over that right berth but pushed much further forward, with Grant Holt.
Wes Hoolahan – what a player he would be if he had a right foot – continued to operate just behind Holt, and the ever-excellent Adam Drury and the surprisingly agile Micky Spillane began to canter down the flanks.
Orient were overwhelmed. Brilliant.
Being able to assess and redress a situation effectively is a gift not given to all managers. Having the personnel to do it is another plus, for which Gunny deserves our thanks.
Yes, recent events have been very encouraging. But it’s still going to be a long, hard season.
And we’ll need the Doc. So, for City’s sake, let’s encourage him as well.
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