Tommy Docherty

The Doc Passes Away at the Age of 92

Former Manchester United, Chelsea and Scotland manager Tommy Docherty, who twice brought teams to Perth, died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 92 following a long illness.

As a player, Glasgow-born Docherty began his career with Celtic and went on to make more than 300 appearances for a Preston North End team that included the great Tom Finney. He also turned out more than 80 times with Arsenal and finished his playing career with Chelsea.

Docherty also won 25 caps for Scotland, including the 1954 World Cup finals in Switzerland and the 1958 finals in Sweden.
He went on to manage 12 clubs (some of them more than once) – and he used to joke that he had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus. He led Chelsea to League Cup success in 1965 and United to a 2-1 win over Liverpool in the 1977 FA Cup final.

The Doc, as he was affectionately known, brought Chelsea to Perth in 1965 when the London side thrashed WA 6-1 in an international challenge in front of a crowd of 7,000 at the WACA Ground.

Fleet-footed winger Bobby Tambling, playing at outside left, lived up to his reputation as Chelsea’s top marksman by hammering a hat-trick of goals past WA keeper Lou Ivanov. The visitors other strikes came from George Graham, Jim McCalliog and John Mortimore.

Docherty returned to Perth in 1975, this time as manager of a young Manchester United side that he was re-building after a few turbulent years in England that saw the Red Devils relegated before bouncing back to the top league after one season.

He had left the Scotland job to take over at United from Frank O’Farrell and was tasked with the uneviable job of replacing ageing legends George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law with a younger, more enthusiastic, set of players.

Despite relegation and a season in the second tier, Docherty was able to sever the ties to the past and instil new purpose in the New Devils. Back in the old Division One, they finished third and lost to Southampton in the FA Cup final and, a year later, won the FA Cup, beating Liverpool at Wembley to stop Bob Paisley’s team claiming a Treble.

The United team that attracted 14,000 to Perry Lakes Stadium in June, 1975, included up-and-coming players Lou Macari, Stuart Pearson, Jimmy Nicholl, Martin Buchan, Jim Holton, Gordon Hill, Steve Coppell and Gerry Daly. The visitors won 2-1 with goals from Coppell and McIlroy, while George McMillan scored for WA after earlier missing a penalty.

Docherty was back in Australia in 1981-83, this time as the coach of South Melbourne and Sydney Olympic. He returned to England to take the helm at Wolverhampton Wanderers before becoming the manager of Altincham.

He retired from the game in 1988 but this larger-than-life character went on to become a great success on the UK speaking circuit, his humorous anecdotes drawing big crowds.

Journalist Martin Chilton ghost-wrote Docherty’s memoirs of his time at Old Trafford, “Manchester United: The Quest For Glory.”
Chilton recalled of his many interviews with the Doc:

“He sometimes stopped joking and opened up about his background. He told me his mother never had much money and would dress him in clothes from jumble sales (“I looked like a First World War general”, he said). He admitted he was a real rascal in his young days and credited the Army for teaching him discipline.”

“During his two years’ national service in Palestine he was on guard duty at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem when it was blown up in July 1946. He saw quite a few friends perish among the 91 fatalities. It’s little wonder that the experience made him thick-skinned about dealing with the vagaries of football chairmen later in life.”

“His tales of dealing with football owners were always funny. On one occasion the Derby chairman snoozed through a meeting, only to jolt awake and criticise Docherty for selling John O’Hare. “He was sold before I got here,” Docherty replied. “Well, that’s my opinion,” the chairman said, before returning to his sleep.”

“Docherty retained a strong affection for Chelsea. It had been his debut job as a manager, when he was in his thirties (young then in football terms) and was tasked with controlling a group of strong-minded players, including Terry Venables, Peter Osgood and Ron “Chopper” Harris.”

“Docherty once hurled a pasty at the back of Harris’s head, when he wasn’t paying attention during a team talk. Harris later joked that he deserved it. During his time at Stamford Bridge, Docherty won the League Cup in 1965. He told me that Chelsea remained friendly to him, sending a Christmas hamper from Harrods for many years afterwards.”

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