Doherty ready for a big reunion
DAVID CUFFLEY Gary Doherty can hardly wait to take on former club Luton Town at Carrow Road on Saturday - but insists he is now an admirer rather than a fan of the Hatters.
Gary Doherty can hardly wait to take on former club Luton Town at Carrow Road tomorrow (3pm) - but insists he is now an admirer rather than a fan of the Hatters.
The Norwich City central defender has sharply contrasting memories of last season's two Coca-Cola Championship meetings between the two clubs. The Canaries were a disastrous 4-0 down at half-time en route to a 4-2 defeat at Kenilworth Road in October, but bounced back to win 2-0 against off-colour opponents on home territory a month later.
However, Doherty, who played 84 times for Luton, the club he supported as a youngster, expects Mike Newell's men to pose more of a threat than they did on their last trip to Norwich after winning their first two matches of the new season.
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“They've had a great start,” said Doherty. “They had a great season last year, lost a couple of their key players in the summer but they've come back strongly and had an excellent start, so they'll have plenty of confidence coming here.
“I watched a bit of their first game against Leicester and saw their first goal when they got off to a flier, and I saw the goal from the Sheffield Wednesday game.
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“They look good, they're another attacking force. The manager there I rate very highly, he's done a great job and they will be well organised. They were disappointed probably when they last came to Carrow Road, as we were when we went to Kenilworth Road, but with it being at our place we're strong and we're confident at the minute.”
Newell sold striker Steve Howard to Derby for £1m and midfielder Kevin Nicholls to Leeds for £700,000 in the close season, but brought in striker Adam Boyd from Hartlepool for £500,000.
Said Doherty: “They spent a lot of money on Boyd for what Luton have, to be honest, but he's quite astute with his buys, so I'll be expecting him to be a fairly decent player. I've also played against the two front lads, Rowan Vine and Warren Feeney, before, so I know it's going to be a tough game.”
Having friends and family in the crowd each time City face Luton brings mixed blessings for Doherty.
He said: “I've grown up watching Luton. We had a nightmare playing at their place last year, but we got a little bit of revenge beating them 2-0 so we'll be looking for the same result.
“I always like to play Luton because all my friends and family come down. It's going to be a good occasion. My mum and dad come to all the games and they'll be supporting me, and I'll have a lot of friends at the game tomorrow. All my mates will be supporting Luton, but there's no divided loyalties for me at all. Footballers can't really support clubs any more.
“We need three points and if we get three points it looks like quite a good start to the season and something we can build on.
“I think we're playing very well, passing the ball very well. It's quite slick at the minute and we've just got to keep it going, keep creating chances and keep it tight at the back - that's a recipe for getting out of this league.
“I think everyone at the minute is quite happy playing in the positions that they've been asked, so if you keep everyone happy and the first eleven are happy in the positions they're in, it bodes well for a victory.”
Doherty feels his understanding with Jason Shackell in central defence is improving game by game.
He said: “We played a lot of games during pre-season, myself and Jason, which got us a bit of understanding with each other's games. Last year was a bit of a nightmare with the changes that were being made, especially the back four. It was ridiculous at one stage, the amount of injures we were getting. I think that's the key. If we can keep everyone injury-free and in good form I'm sure we can be real challengers this season.”