Hull City v Bristol City: Tigers star happy to play the mind games

IT was one of Greg Docherty’s compatriots who tellingly said that the inner game is football’s ‘final frontier.’

The Hull City midfield player is minded to agree.

Modern-day footballers lack for nothing in match preparation in terms of tactical, technical, physical and nutritional information. It has never been as good, in truth.

Getting in the right psychological mindset can be less quantifiable. Yet it is critically important, whether that be in preparing for matches or dealing with pressures associated with the job, namely criticism on social media or from the stands.

Scotland target: Hull City's Greg Docherty. Picture: Bruce RollinsonScotland target: Hull City's Greg Docherty. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Scotland target: Hull City's Greg Docherty. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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A book by Scottish mind coach John Johnstone entitled: ‘Master Your Confidence: The elite footballer’s guide to high performance’ delves into the importance of mindset.

Scotland internationals John Souttar and Chris Cadden are among his clients.

Docherty – who harbours hopes of representing his country at senior level – is someone who believes that the importance of a high-performance mentality is huge in football. He educates himself in that regard.

It helps to explain why he never panicked amid Hull’s tough baptism back in the Championship and some negative background noise.

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He was sensible enough to know Hull were not far away from turning things around. Some narrow losses suggested that. Now City are getting fruits from their previous labours.

Things are undeniably looking a fair bit better, but keeping the right mindset and equilibrium is vital.

You do not pop open the Champagne corks when it is going well and neither do you pop the pills if things are not.

Docherty said: “I have been working off the pitch and am right into mindset stuff and the sports psychology side of the game, which I think really helps.

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“I think it is crucial in modern-day football and a lot of players are leaning on that as well and it can be very beneficial and help in your physical performance.

“There’s a lot of positive avenues; whether that is podcasts or seeking help from elsewhere, which I have done previously and still do sometimes now. It is extra training on the mental side and not the physical.

“The (new) Manchester United manager (Ralph Rangnick) has brought in a sports psychologist straightaway and has said that half of the Bundesliga at the very top are working on this as he really believes in it.

“There is no right or wrong. You can believe in it if you want and if you don’t, then that’s fine. But if it helps people, why not try it?”

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On criticism from the outside, he continued: “Sometimes, you feel like you are letting people down and you can take it personally on the pitch and you see the frustration of fans and you can feel it as well when it is not going your way.

“You need to have that thick skin and develop it. After a defeat, I am pretty switched onto not going on (social media). I am my own biggest critic.

“But if you are on these platforms, you have got to be open to that sometimes. Sometimes, the comments can be great, but it can also be quite negative as well.”

A high-energy, combative midfielder, Docherty admits that his time south of the border after leaving boyhood club Rangers has been the making of him.

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Born in the Glasgow suburb of Milngavie, the 25-year-old grew up as a big Gers fan – his home town is where the club’s training centre is located.

He represented the Ibrox club on 19 occasions, but fell out of favour under Steven Gerrard. The then Rangers manager’s parting message to Docherty when he left in the summer of 2020 was to win League One with Hull to prove himself.

He followed that advice to the letter and he has not looked back since moving to England.

Docherty continued: “Sometimes, you need a fresh challenge. It can be difficult to take – me being from Glasgow and supporting the club.

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“But you have to move that side of it and think about the long term. It was time to leave Scotland and have a right go at it in England.

“I loved my time when I was initially down here (on loan at Shrewsbury in 2018-19) and am loving my time now.

“Last year was obviously fantastic and I look at League One now and how big an achievement it was and I am really happy with how things are going. At the minute, the team is playing well and I am personally feeling good.”

A proud Scot, Docherty has represented his country at Under-21 and Under-17 level and would dearly love to don the navy blue at senior level and follow the lead of a number of players who have operated in the second-tier in recent times in England, such as Lyndon Dykes, Liam Palmer and Jacob Brown.

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The Glaswegian was among the Tartan Army who decamped to London in the thousands for this summer’s Euro 2020 meeting with ‘The Auld Enemy’ England at Wembley.

One day in the future, he might just be out there on the pitch.

Docherty added: “At the minute, Scotland have a settled squad and Steve Clarke is doing a fantastic job and, as a fan, I am delighted.

“I was down in London and celebrating the 0-0 draw (with England) like a win and it was fantastic. The nation are all singing from the same hymn sheet and everyone is behind the team and that has got to be another goal for me – breaking into that (squad).

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“Playing week in, week out in the Championship, that will help my cause. I want to improve my numbers personally and put my name out a little bit more.

“Midfield is very strong in Scotland, but that is what you want to get to – and get in the squad and displace players. If the opportunity comes, it is something I will hopefully grab with both hands.”

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