THERE won’t be a dry eye in the house when Scotland legend Tommy Docherty appears at Colne Muni.
But be rest assured that they won’t be tears of sadness, because 90 minutes of hilarious football-related stories and behind the scenes anecdotes will culminate in the audience shedding tears of joy and ecstasy.
Only minutes on the phone had expired, chatting solemnly to the former Preston North End and Arsenal defender, when I found my lungs deflating and begging for oxygen at a managerial gaff shared between himself and the late and great Bill Shankley OBE. However, the subject of the narrative Tony Hateley may not share the same humour on this occasion.
Docherty said: “There’s not been loads of tales from my playing days because you just went out there and played to the best of your ability. There’s been different situations in my managerial career though. I once signed Tony Hateley for Chelsea from Aston Villa in 1966 and it didn’t really work out. The move was disappointing for both parties. I got a call from Bill Shankley who asked me how much I wanted for the lad Hateley. I said ‘100,000 wouldn’t buy him’, to which he replied ‘I know, I’m one of the 100,000’. God rest his soul.”
You can expect a wide range of opinions from the out-spoken Scot who incorporates fact and honesty as the main ingredient of his witty and side-splitting one-liners. There’s tales that surround some of football’s former gentlemen and an anthology of fond memories of days playing for, captaining and managing the Scottish national side.
On appearing at Colne Muni on Friday for his one man show ‘On The Ball’, Docherty said: “I’m looking forward to it, very much so. I do quite a lot of them actually; I’ve been down in Portsmouth, Southampton and Lichfield but I’m happy to be back up north. I’m from The Cockstalls near Stockport and I love it there.
“I’m on the circuit and I’m kept busy. I really enjoy it and so must they or else they wouldn’t ask me back. Alan Shearer, Matthew Le Tissier and Kevin Keegan have all been there. You never know who is going to turn up.”
He added: “I’ve been doing it since 1973. It’s just tales of my career; the different personalities I’ve met along the way, the good ones, the bad ones, the great managers, bad managers, memorable players. Then there’s a question and answer session at the end. Everyone can expect a very entertaining evening and if they ask me a question they may not get the answer they like, but they’ll get the truth.”
Docherty was offered a contract at his boyhood heroes Celtic in 1947 but found first team places hard to come by and in November, 1949, after just two years with the club, he joined Preston North End. It was at the Lancashire outfit where he enjoyed the most successful period of his playing career, making more than 300 league appearances and appearing in an FA Cup final in 1954.
And it was while at Preston where he made the first of his 25 full international caps for the Scottish side as well as meeting close friend and one of football’s greatest ever players, Sir Tom Finney.
“I’ve played against and alongside Sir Tom Finney,” Docherty said. “One of the stand-out games playing against him was Scotland versus England at Wembley. He was one of the greatest players ever. “It’s impossible to get anyone better as a person. You couldn’t find anyone as good as him. The players today couldn’t lace his boots.”
Docherty had been paid £12 during the season and £8 in the summer as a professional for Preston North End and it was following England’s 2-1 victory against Scotland one season at Wembley, where both Docherty and Finney featured prominently, that the 82-year-old comic joked with his chairman “I want £14 a week like Tom”. The chairman exclaimed that Docherty wasn’t as good a player as Finney to which the Scot replied “Yes, but I am in the summer.”
Docherty represented his country during the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland and then again in the Finals of the 1958 tournament in Sweden, the same year he left Deepdale to join Arsenal.
Docherty said: “I’ve lots of fond memories from my career. I’ve played for, captained and managed my country; that’s a huge honour. I played in the 1954 and ‘58 World Cups in Switzerland and Sweden. We didn’t do very well at all. On many occasions we were lucky to get nil. We played against the like of Uruguay so it was certainly an experience. I’ve played against Alfredo Di Stefano of Real Madrid and Uruguay’s Juan Alberto Schiaffino, they were great players.
“And there’s been so many greats that I’ve been lucky enough to know. I’ve managed Kenny Dalglish, Billy Bremner, Jimmy Johnstone, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer. I have great memories of my career, it was brilliant. We got paid for doing something we loved but we didn’t get anything like what they do today.”
At Arsenal Docherty earned his highest ever pay packet, £20 per week. And he firmly believes that the players’ wage structure at football clubs today is ludicrous.
“The money they get paid today is immoral, it’s beyond ridiculous,” he said. “It’s still a great game and there’s still some great players about but the money is crazy.
“A surgeon can save somebody’s life yet there’s players sat on the bench week-in, week-out who are earning more than them. That can’t be right. How the game has changed,” said Docherty, who went on to manage the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United.
After Ted Drake had orchestrated Chelsea’s drop from the First Division during the 1961/62 season, Docherty took over and with his team of ‘Docherty’s Diamonds’ comprising players like Terry Venables, Bobby Tambling, Peter Bonetti and Barry Bridges, he took them straight back up. He also won the League Cup during the 1964/65 campaign.
But, despite the trophies and the various accolades Docherty has no illusions over his fondest career memory: “Captaining my country, Scotland, without any shadow of a doubt. Managing your country is even better but your playing days are your best days.
“When you’re playing you go out there and give your best but when you’re managing you have to rely on others to perform, and they don’t always do that. To walk out at the best stadiums in the world as captain of your country, well, it doesn’t get better than that.”
Tickets for Friday’s show, which starts at 7-30 p.m., are £18 and can be purchased by calling the Colne Muni Box Office on 01282 661234.