Ireland cult hero Gary Doherty talks "Ginger Pele" nickname and how versatility "hindered" his career

Ex-Tottenham and Norwich defender talks to Team 33's Raf Diallo and Conor Neville in depth

Gary Doherty, Ireland

Gary Doherty Picture by: Haydn West / PA Archive/Press Association Images

For those who remember the Ireland team from 2000 to 2005, the man dubbed the 'Ginger Pele' was a regular sight in the green shirt.

Gary Doherty was an enigma as a player, given that he played at both centre-back and centre-forward in a career which saw him line out with Luton Town, Tottenham, Norwich, Charlton and the Republic of Ireland.

The 36-year-old has been off the radar since retiring at Wycombe in 2014 but on this week's Team 33, he was kind enough to join Conor Neville and I to share a few stories from his Ireland and club career.

You can listen into the full interview via the podcast player below or stream free on iTunes:

One of those was that question of versatility and how being fielded up front one week and at the back another week affected him.

"I played both [positions]. I've literally been doing this since probably as far back as I can remember. I started taking up football at maybe 7 or 8-years-old and straight away I was always either a centre-half or a centre-forward. It's something that did hinder my career because they were obviously two opposite positions and it's hard to pin one down. I also look back and probably wouldn't have got as many Ireland caps as I did if I couldn't play in a dual role. So obviously I've got that to be thankful for. But it's certainly something if I look back, I think maybe at a early age, said I only want to play in one positions," Doherty told us, while he also revealed which position was the one he actually preferred.

Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr congratulates Gary Doherty, who scored Ireland's winning goal after their Euro 2004 qualifying group ten match against Gergia at the Lokomotiv Stadium, Tbilisis, Georgia. Georgia were beaten 1-2 by Ireland. Picture by: Haydn West / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Doherty was a member of Brian Kerr's successful Ireland youth teams and shared a few fun tales from that from those trips as well as the era when the former Ireland manager succeeded Mick McCarthy post-2002 World Cup.

That tournament was one Doherty unfortunately missed despite returning from a broken leg just in time to appear in some of the warm-up games before the World Cup, Saipan and everything that entailed.

Among the many other topics he chatted to us about on the podcast were:

  • How Ireland's players felt when Roy Keane made a U-turn on his pre-2002 World Cup exit.
  • His childhood which saw him leave Donegal for Luton at the age 7.
  • Growing up as an Irish kid in Luton and the effect that had on schoolyard football.
  • Just how good his former Spurs centre-back partner Ledley King was.
  • His favourite Tottenham manager.
  • The time former Norwich manager Paul Lambert took the Canaries captaincy off him and told him he had no future at Carrow Road.
  • How close he got to moving to Major League Soccer later in his career.
  • How long he's really had the Ginger Pele nickname