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Release date: 24th April, 2008 Publisher: John Blake Publishing
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Within a few months of the then scandalous revelation in a Sunday tabloid that Tommy Docherty had been having an affair with Mary Brown, wife of Manchester United's physiotherapist, the 'Doc' brought his struggling team to Anfield. To say he came in for sustained verbal abuse is, as you might imagine, an understatement. The Kop had a whale of a time with one particular tune, Knees Up Mother Brown, proving especially popular. The song's words were changed into a significantly less complimentary version than the original, although it is impossible to repeat the lyrics here.
How that must have hurt Docherty, who had by then abandoned Agnes, his wife of twenty seven years, to live with the 'other woman'. Once a football crowd adopts a particular tune or latches onto a rumour, however inaccurate, both can spread like wildfire as players such as Graeme Le Saux have found. Yet Tom Docherty, son of the erstwhile Manchester United manager, who has not spoken to his father for thirty years, has written a book based upon his mother's hand-written memoirs, which will go much, much deeper and hurt even more.
Docherty junior writes well and wastes no time in establishing his intention to set the record straight on his mother's behalf. She died suddenly in 2002 and it was when clearing the attic of her house that he found a plastic bag containing hundreds of newspaper clippings about Docherty senior and a hand-written memoir of her marriage.
The 'Doc's' departure broke her heart and "shattered her life long before she died," writes Docherty who is clearly still bitter about what his father did to his mother. "Whenever he pops up as a rent-a-quote on a football programme," he writes, "he still appears Öslightly bewildered by the ramifications of that decision."
It had all started so well for both Tommy and Agnes Docherty. Tommy was the talented, Gorbals-born footballer who was a fringe player at Celtic who went on to make his name at Preston after the Glasgow club accepted an offer of £2,000 for him and he accepted a weekly wage of £8 on the spot. [In Docherty's autobiography, he claims the fee was £4,000 and his wages £10 a week.] He played for Preston for almost a decade before moving to Arsenal and later Chelsea; he also appeared 25 times for Scotland.
But it was as a manger that Docherty's profile became more prominent, particularly after he had taken the helm at Chelsea and later at Manchester United where he stayed for four-and-a-half years, during which time they were relegated to the old Second Division.
Docherty junior has assembled some fascinating detail here, much of which could be termed 'football's social history', ie the game and its impact upon family life from behind the scenes. There are stories of happier times, of a man embarked on a career that required frequent upheaval and of the strain (and occasional joy) that causes. Yet Agnes remained sanguine until being hit with the bombshell in the summer of 1977 from which she never recovered.
It's a sad tale, laced with a number of authentic side-swipes at footballing sycophants and other hangers-on as seen by someone who could justifiably be called the 'original footballer's wife'. But don't let that put you off reading it.