Having been fortunate enough to become attracted to the magic of Manchester United just prior to going into my teens a couple of years before Munich, I have lived through the eras of every Old Trafford manager since, from the great Sir Matt Busby to the incredible success of Sir Alex Ferguson. Those two legends have left their own legacy to both the club and to English football itself which is unlikely to ever be matched. There was however another manager in between who has left an immense impression which even after more than 30 years still remains today.
Despite his many shortcomings, which includes being the first United manager since 1937 to take the club to the purgatory of Second Division football, that man was Tommy Docherty. It’s a name which may not mean much to today’s younger fans but ‘The Doc’ still evokes memories of those remarkable years in the seventies for old farts like myself. It’s one of the reasons why I found Sean Egans’s ‘The Doc’s Devils’ such a compelling read.
Docherty’s era at Old Trafford only lasted from December 1972 until July 1977, just a few short weeks after United defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley to prevent them from becoming the first English club to complete a momentous treble of the Championship, FA Cup and European Cup. That unique achievement was instead accomplished by United itself in 1999.
In December 1972, when manager Frank O’Farrell was sacked by Manchester United, the temptation of managing one of the world’s biggest football clubs was too much to resist for Docherty after he was approached by United. The Doc did not hesitate to quit his job as Scotland manager in order to take up the role at Old Trafford.
Docherty led United through one of the most interesting periods in their history. He took the club on a journey which included a successful relegation battle in his first season, relegation itself in the second then instant promotion and two successive Cup Finals in a period of four and a half years.
The bizarre nature of his eventual sacking following allegations about his private life gives some indication of the complicated, less than perfect man ‘Doc’s Devils’ seeks to unveil. Docherty’s unconventional, and at times controversial approach to team affairs and man management is explored on a season by season basis, whilst numerous interviews from those who worked with and played under him, including legends of the era such as Brian Greenhoff and Sammy McIlroy, ensure that no stone is left unturned in this tale of the highest highs and lowest lows the great game has to offer.
These first hand accounts really make ‘Doc’s Devils’ the definitive account of this period, and the book is a must read for any serious United fan, whilst the author’s ability to maintain a degree of neutrality rarely found in such biographies will also encourage followers of teams outside of the red half of Manchester to persist with this incredible football tale.
In addition to The Doc’s story, ‘Doc’s Devils’ looks at the post United careers of those who played in his sides and who came to love and loathe him in equal measure. It also includes a full match by match record for that period.
‘Doc’s Devils’ is an extremely informative and thorough account of ‘The Docs’ spell at this world famous football club, which still employed the Holy Trinity of Law, Best and Charlton during his tenure. The book overflows with the degree of insight and documentation which only the most vigorous research can uncover and author Egan’s thorough, investigative approach is matched only by the quality of his writing.
The book is available from http://www.cherryred.co.uk/
Do you have any special memories of the Docherty Years?