Doherty keen to repay the faith
DAVID CUFFLEY Defender Gary Doherty is desperate to help give Norwich City something to celebrate in his fourth season with the club. The 27-year-old centre-half had his contract extended for a further 12 months by manager Peter Grant just as he was beginning his recovery from the operation that forced him to miss the final five matches of last season.
Defender Gary Doherty is desperate to help give Norwich City something to celebrate in his fourth season with the club.
The 27-year-old centre-half had his contract extended for a further 12 months by manager Peter Grant just as he was beginning his recovery from the operation that forced him to miss the final five matches of last season.
But Doherty is only too aware that his first three years at Carrow Road have been devoid of honours - other than his individual award as player of the year in 2005-06.
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And after prescribing “hard graft” as the way to get himself fighting fit for the new campaign, the Republic of Ireland international admitted that City simply had to make a sustained promotion challenge this time round.
Doherty's arrival from Tottenham in the summer of 2004 coincided with the start of the Canaries' Premiership adventure, one that ended with relegation on the last day of the season, since when they have not threatened to return to the top flight, finishing ninth and 16th in the Championship.
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He said: “I have another year here and I'm hoping we can make more of a challenge this time.
“It's not been great so far, with relegation the first year, then we came ninth in the Championship and we had an awful season last year, but we have a new manager who can get his own players in and hopefully really push.
“It depends who the gaffer can get in. It looks as if there is a bit of money to spend, which is good. This league is only going to get harder. There are teams coming down with big money and it's going to be tough. We need to really push for the play-offs.
“We have the nucleus of a squad that can do very well. But apart from about 14 players, the squad is very young and the squad needs to be more solid.”
Doherty played 39 times last season to take his City appearance total into three figures. With 108 games under his belt, only Adam Drury and Darren Huckerby of the current squad have played more matches.
His last outing was in the Easter Monday home defeat by West Bromwich Albion. A few days later, a training injury ruled him out of the trip to Leicester and he bowed to the inevitable, his season ended by surgery.
“I'd had a problem for a few games for about two or three weeks before that. The injury got worse and once we were definitely safe we had to get it done,” said Doherty.
“It was a double hernia and when it gets to the point where you can't kick a ball, you have to get it looked at. I went to Manchester to get it sorted.”
Since then, apart from a one-week break, it's been a diet of hard work under the guidance of City physiotherapist Neal Reynolds, who has hailed Doherty's “terrific progress”.
He was among a group of players back at Colney for fitness tests last week, but in truth, has seldom been away from the training ground.
“I've been working every day just trying to get my fitness levels up to where they should be,” said Doherty.
“I've missed about 10 weeks all in all and I've got about three more weeks' work before we start training again. I want to get back for pre-season training fitter and stronger and raring to go.
“I'll be doing a lot of hard graft to get my fitness levels better and then hit pre-season really well.”
Doherty's contract extension was confirmed at the same time as that of midfielder Mark Fotheringham.
Grant said at the time: “I feel they could be big players for us. Getting their general fitness up and playing consistently will help them, now it is up to them to keep their position in the team. It's going to be a big pre-season for both of them.”