#4 – Gary Doherty
You may have noticed that my natural reaction to a new signing being made is one of caution. You could offer me a list of reasons longer than Simon Makienok’s hair as to why an addition will be a success in SE7 and, without disagreeing, I’ll respond with a list too long to tattoo onto the Dane’s body suggesting why he won’t.
It isn’t negativity – I’ll fight the corner of a signing for who there are question marks over – but I refuse to get carried away irrespective of how positive a new recruit may appear be.
For on countless occasions during my time as a Charlton supporter have players failed to live up to their promise. Additions with records that suggested they would impress at The Valley failing to do so, and the sort of signings that could go either way so regularly unable to make the most of the opportunity given to them by the club.
That desire to be cautious has been exacerbated in recent seasons, with many of Roland Duchatelet’s recruits unable to adapt to the English game. He might well look good on paper, but Yohann Thuram was one of the best goalkeepers in Ligue 1 and Christophe Lepoint was adored by Gent fans.
But this reluctance to get excited by signings began long before Duchatelet arrived and implemented his transfer policy. It might well have been born out of placing misguided optimism in a signing as far back as the summer of 2010.
Gary Doherty did not arrive during a time of positivity. He joined a club still reeling from the play-off semi-final defeat to Swindon Town two months earlier, had a squad lacking quality and bodies, and were in a disastrous financial state.
As such, it was difficult to feel truly positive about anything Charlton related. Only those who were yet to accept the club’s position in the third tier were confident of promotion out of League One.
But the signing of the Ginger Pele suggested we weren’t going to lie down and accept our fate, marooned among the League One also-rans.
For Doherty had captained Norwich City’s title winning side in the previous campaign. The same Norwich side that, through determination, grit and Fraser Forster, somehow managed to come away from The Valley with a 1-0 victory and promotion.
In the first instance, his signing was sensible. One of the main reasons as to why the Addicks had to attempt to achieve promotion through the play-offs in the first place was the conceding of soft goals. Sam Sodje and Miguel Llera the main culprits.
With Player of the Year Christian Dailly the man most likely to partner him, and Rob Elliot between the sticks, it appeared as if the Addicks had a very strong defensive core. Two excellent and experienced leaders, with an always improving goalkeeper behind them.
But, more importantly, it was seemingly one of intent. A player who had climbed out the third tier in the previous season, able to contribute to an effort that would result in promotion again.
While the list of players who had departed, which included Frazer Richardson, Jonjo Shelvey and Nicky Bailey, was long and worrying, the capture of individuals who had experienced promotion before or had previously excelled in League One irrespective of the financial predicament at the club at the time provided at least some sort of hope to cling onto.
Alongside Doherty there was the Southend duo of Simon Francis and Alan McCormack, the permanent captures of Johnnie Jackson and Kyel Reid, and loanee Lee Martin. Jackson aside, it seems bizarre to now say there was positivity about the new additions at the time.
As that positivity quickly proved misplaced. An eleven game unbeaten run through October and November monetarily increased expectations, but the 2010/11 campaign was a disastrous one, broadcasting the fragile state the club was in and featuring countless disappointing individual and collective performances that neither Phil Parkinson nor Chris Powell could address with the resources available.
And that Doherty was unable to provide the leadership and resilience at the back that was hoped for upon his signing was one of the most frustrating factors of that campaign.
His reading of the game, like you would expect from any experienced centre-back of a certain reputation, was excellent. But his legs could no longer do what his brain was telling him to – his release from Norwich evidently justified, irrespective of his efforts in their promotion winning campaign. Countless goals conceded through a Doherty error of judgement.
And the Irishman’s difficulties were only made worse by his partner declining dramatically towards the end of the campaign. Dailly struggling beyond Christmas, and neither able to deal with pacey or agile forwards.
In the football for a fiver affair against Exeter City, both were depressingly hopeless – something that was repeated in another 3-1 defeat, this time against Carlisle, before an injury spared Doherty and saw him subbed before half-time.
In many ways, it was a similar pairing to Roger Johnson and Tal Ben Haim last season, in the sense that their combined lack of pace and mobility only heightened the weaknesses the pair possessed. Decent enough individually when paired with Joe Gomez, but there was only an equally as past it Jon Fortune as an alternative for Doherty and Dailly.
The Irishman, however, is one of the few players who will feature in this XI who I hold nothing against. His career, with Premier League appearances and international caps, is a good one, and a lack of effort never contributed to any of his below-par performances.
It’s merely disappointing that I saw the signing as proof of a promising season ahead, but his failure to impress contributed to a torrid campaign. Caution has followed ever since.