Ricki Herbert: ‘Inspirational’ Docherty helped teach me how to coach

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The recent death of former Manchester United and Scotland manager Tommy Docherty has evoked memories for former All Whites coach and player Ricki Herbert.

Docherty died on New Year’s Eve, aged 92, after a long illness.

Paying tribute to ‘The Doc’, Herbert said Docherty had played a “huge part” in his own football career, giving him the chance to play professional football and helping show how to relate to players as a coach.

After playing at the 1982 FIFA World Cup Finals, the young Herbert joined Australian club Sydney Olympic – managed by Docherty. The Scot had moved to Australia after a tempestuous spell managing Manchester United.

Herbert followed Docherty back to the UK where he earned a contract in 1984 with English club Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Wolves match programmes … the management team (left) and Herbert (right).

All Whites and Wellington Phoenix coach Herbert reflected Docherty was the “most inspirational” coach he encountered during his club career.

“He was very disciplined but cared for people – very generous with his time,” Herbert said.

Herbert enjoyed his first dealings with Docherty at Sydney Olympic where the manager would pick him and other players up and take them to and from training sessions.

“He was very approachable and would get on well with the young players.”

After Docherty returned to the United Kingdom, he sent a message to Herbert through former Eastern Suburbs coach and fellow Scot, Tom McNab, in Auckland.

That led to a meeting in Newcastle, where Herbert was playing for the All Whites during a tour of the United Kingdom, with Wolves’ assistant manager Sammy Chapman.

Herbert at Wolves.

“When I got back to New Zealand, I signed a contract and flew out of Auckland on the Tuesday. On the Saturday, I was in the Wolves first team to play Brighton at Molyneux.”

Herbert said an example of Docherty’s man-management skills came as he nervously prepared to leave the dressing room for his debut.

“I was really nervous – I was about to play in front of 25,000 people and Tommy could see the pressure was on me.

“He came over and took me aside, so he could speak to me in private. ‘Did you hear the one about …’ He told me a joke! It broke the tension and I was fine.”

Fifteen years later, Herbert was in the UK, undertaking his A-Level Coaching Licence at a university.

Docherty was on the campus, talking with a group of people.

“He caught sight of me, recognised me immediately and made his apologies to the group. He came over and was pleased to see me. He had the knack of making you feel special.”

Herbert said Docherty taught him a lot about relating to people and he was grateful his former manager wrote the foreword to his biography A New Fire, written by Russell Gray.

“He was one of football’s great characters and I’ll always be thankful for the part he played in my career,” Herbert said.

Tommy Docherty (1928-2020)

Docherty spent most of his playing career – nine years – at Preston North End before joining Arsenal and then Chelsea. He played 25 times for Scotland.

He managed 12 clubs, also including Chelsea, Aston Villa and Derby.

When Docherty visited New Zealand

In 1975, Docherty brought his Manchester United squad to New Zealand where they beat Auckland 2-0 before a packed Newmarket Park crowd.

Click here for more about that game and to read the match programme >>>>