Matt Doherty came on as a sub against Arsenal at the weekend. Kirsty Wigglesworth
Out of favour

“Does Conte actually mean if we play Doherty we will lose? If so that is brutal'

The stinging criticism of the Ireland international was up for discussion on this week’s episode of the Football Family.

WHY HAS ANTONIO Conte publicly disparaged Matt Doherty? How has the Spurs wing-back gone from being a valued starter last spring to being overlooked this term? How fit do you need to be for Conte to select you in his matchday XI? And has there been a disagreement between the player and manager behind the scenes?

These were some of the questions posed during The Football Family, a podcast available to The42 members

Host Gavin Cooney was joined by the Jack Pitt-Brooke, Tottenham Hotspur correspondent for The Athletic, following Conte’s scathing criticism of Doherty earlier this week, where he said: “Also [Matt] Doherty, Doherty last season played every game. And now, I am not seeing him in the right way to start the game. I am not stupid. I don’t want to lose.”

Pitt-Brooke said Doherty is “not injured” as he has come on three times for Spurs this season. “But clearly Conte doesn’t think that he’s fit enough to start games, which he was last season. 

“Conte has incredibly high fitness standards, that’s why he’s so controlling of players’ diets. He works the players very hard and he’s not going to want anyone on the pitch who he doesn’t think is 100%. I think it’s probably relevant that Donerty’s started for Ireland this season but hasn’t started for Tottenham. It’s definitely true to say that Conte has a higher bar for how fit you need to be to play for him than other managers do.”  

Pitt-Brooke added: “It does feel a bit weird that a player who’s not injured and is fit enough to play for his country, and is fit enough for the Tottenham bench, should not be considered fit enough to start for Tottenham. Clearly there is a disagreement there if Doherty does think he’s fit enough to start and Conte doesn’t, but it’s not necessarily a personal grudge that Conte has with Doherty.”  

Djed Spence, said Pitt-Brooke, is in the “same boat” with Conte stating he is ready to start at win-back either for Spurs. 

“On the flip side, Doherty’s played hundreds of Premier League games and Spence hasn’t so far . . .  If you were Doherty or someone who wanted to see him in the team you would be left scratching your head a little bit.” 

Emerson Royal’s red card in the North London derby defeat to Arsenal at the weekend could herald a return to the starting side for the Ireland international, but the words of his club boss would suggest he still has work to do to convince him. 

“Does he actually mean if we play Doherty we will lose? If so that is brutal, particularly given how badly Emerson Royal has been playing. Emerson’s a really good athlete and a pretty good defender. He offers very little going forward in the final third, certainly compared to Doherty,” Pitt-Brooke said. He added that considering English is Conte’s second language, perhaps his words “sounded worse than he actually meant”.    

Doherty had a “really good run” of eight games in a row between February and April before he got injured at Aston Villa, Pitt-Brooke said.    

“He looked really fit, was dangerous in the final third and really gave Tottenham what they needed, because if you’re going to play a wing-back system you’re obviously very dependent on wing-backs for creativity. I remember when Doherty got injured people were saying it’s really bad for Spurs that Doherty’s injured. So the assumption always was that he’d come back into the team as soon as he was fit. So the fact that hasn’t happened, and that Conte is willing to say, in public, that he doesn’t think Dopherty is fit enough to play for him at the moment – it does suggest maybe there has been some kind of disagreement or issue behind the scenes.”  

To listen to the full conversation, subscribe at 

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