Matt Doherty nearly got in his car to drive away on darkest days under Mourinho

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Matt Doherty has revealed how Jose Mourinho almost drove him out of Tottenham.

This time last year the Republic of Ireland defender was left to stew all alone on the team bus at Aston Villa after being axed by the Portuguese coach.

So disillusioned with the situation, Doherty admits he seriously considered jumping in his car and heading off for international duty rather than stay to watch the clash in an empty ground.

The Spurs wing-back, 30, declared: “We’d played Arsenal, lost 2-1 and I didn’t have a good game. Then we played Villa away.

‘There were nine subs last season and 21 of us travelled – and that was the time when the manager left people out and brought some kids on the bench. I wasn’t even on the bench. And it was Covid time and you weren’t allowed into the dressing room if not in the squad.

“I was sat on the bus on my own. Genuinely – because it was international break straight after – I was so close to getting the car and going to Manchester.

“I’m glad I didn’t. It’s not professional to do that. In your head, you're on the bus and thinking, ‘What’s the point watching the game, I might as well go’. Obviously, he was trying to prove a point to everybody, not just for me, but that was not fun.”

Of course, Mourinho was sacked soon after. Fast forward 12 months and two more managers down the line, Doherty finally seems to be enjoying life with the North Londoners.

If an unwanted outcast under moody Mourinho and not much better off with Portuguese successor Nuno Espírito Santo – his former Wolves boss – Doherty is finding the style of Antonio Conte much more to his liking.

Yet even winning over the Italian coach has taken time. Only in recent weeks has Doherty become a first-team regular.

Asked when exactly he finally earned the trust of Conte, the ex-Molineux man responded: “Now! I don’t know how many games I’ve started in a row, maybe five, so it’s just now I feel that’s the case.

“Any player feels like that, if a manager is playing you in a consistent run of games. Even when we lost to Man United, lost to Middlesbrough, I was not taken out. It’s happening as we speak. I feel I’ve gained his trust and I’m able to repay him. I’m really happy how things are going.”

The recent upturn in league results – four wins from the last five – means Conte’s men are suddenly back in the top-four mix. They were fifth coming into the weekend, three points behind Arsenal, having played a game more – but with a re-arranged home date against their bitterest rivals still to come.

A promising picture, which Doherty predicts will be considerably rosier once Conte has a whole summer to prepare the squad for a campaign.

On the eve of Newcastle’s visit to N17, he added: “You can imagine with a full pre-season what kind of shape and what kind of state of mind we might be in. That’s exciting. We’ve all realised what an unbelievable coach he is. I feel like we’re all improving. And we don’t want it to end.”

  • Jose Mourinho
  • Tottenham Hotspur FC
  • Antonio Conte
  • Premier League

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