Matt Doherty recalls how Jose Mourinho treatment nearly drove him out of Tottenham

Matt Doherty has revealed how a poor performance left him sat alone on the Tottenham team bus ahead of a Premier League fixture last year.

The tenure of Jose Mourinho was a difficult one for the club, with the team missing out on Champions League qualification both seasons he was at the club. Doherty might have thought his Tottenham career was over at the time of the incident, but the full-back has managed to work his way into Antonio Conte’s plans, starting this Sunday’s Premier League fixture against Newcastle.

However, it was just a year ago that the former Wolves man could have been forgiven for believing that his time in north London was about to come to an end. He explained a situation that arose after last season’s 2-1 loss to Arsenal, before a humiliating Europa League exit at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb.

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It was the following Premier League fixture at Aston Villa where the incident occurred, with Doherty reflecting on what could have been the end of his Spurs career. He said in an interview with the Observer: “We’d played Arsenal, lost 2-1 and I didn’t have a good game – then we played Aston 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.”

Doherty has made seven Premier league starts under Antonio Conte this season and has impressed lately, with three assists and a goal in back-to-back league wins over Leeds and Everton last month. Conte has praised the Ireland international, detailing his improvement in the pre-match press conference before last month’s 2-3 defeat to Manchester United.

“For sure Matt is a player that improved a lot from when I arrived – we work, we work hard, on the tactical aspect, on the physical aspect, with the video, with analysis video,” the Italian said. “During this process, there are players that improve more quickly than the others, and Matt, I think, he improved a lot in these four and a half months.”

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