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Tommy Docherty: My Story. Hallowed be thy Game By Tommy Docherty

Release date: 06th December, 2006
Publisher: Headline Publishing

List Price: £18.99
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In his guise as a radio pundit, Tommy Docherty has become adept at the humorous put-down with comments that only get funnier the more he says them in his broad Glaswegian accent. The one that immediately springs to mind on reading The Doc's latest autobiography is the interview with the hapless young footballer who has just published his life story whilst still in his mid-20s: "I hear you've just done a bookÖHave you coloured it in yet?"

Nobody could accuse Docherty of having a life that lacked colour. He had an austere but loving upbringing, a period in the army of real tragedy that shaped him as a leader and then, as a player and manager, "more clubs than Jack Nicklaus" as he often repeats in his successful post-football role as an after dinner speaker. Docherty has cut a swathe through life that few others can match.

In many ways though, his autobiography is a strange schizophrenic mix, a sort of "book of two halves" as he might say, even down to the dual title on the front cover. On the one hand, there is the elegance, contrition and humour of 'Tommy Docherty - My Story', but on the other is the endless reports and analysis of games season by season in 'The Doc - Hallowed Be Thy Game'. It's as if it has been written by two different people.

And, of course, it has. Docherty himself has provided the real substance for the book in the revealing portrait of his childhood, youth and, in particular, his exit from Manchester United in 1977. The ghostwriter has obviously been given a brief to fill in the gaps. With some careful editing, this could have been a magnificent book; as it is, it's over-long, at times tedious, but with some electric moments.

The first few chapters are startlingly vivid. Docherty brings life to the Glasgow tenements and the characters that abounded there without pathos or sentimentality. Similarly, his period of National Service provides more illuminating background detail to a life lived mostly in the public eye.

However, it is after this that Docherty sets off on his whirlwind tour of clubs in Scotland and England, as both player and manager, with boundless seasonal details punctuated by the odd very good story. Indeed, some of the best of these stories involve clubs that he never even got to play for or manage. For example, in one of his many hiatuses from management, he meets the President of Atletico Bilbao, with whom terms are verbally agreed for Docherty to become manager. The President is killed in a car crash on the way home and that is that.

The book springs to life again during his time at Manchester United, although why it takes 300 pages to get to what most people would regard as the most successful and career-defining part of his life is a mystery. The account of his affair with Mary Brown, the club physiotherapist's wife, and in particular the way it was handled by the hierarchy at Old Trafford, is both revealing and affecting: "I was the only manager ever to have been given the sack for falling in love."

It is obviously a real sadness in Docherty's life that his children from his first marriage have never forgiven him for leaving them, although the fact that his relationship with Mary, which has produced two daughters, is still going strong after 29 years, offers him much loving consolation. Despite the book's faults, Tommy 'Doc' has a great story to tell which is why this bulky tome will find its way into many Christmas stockings.


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