Swindon’s Michael Doughty: ‘I’ll never apologise for my background’

first_imgShare on Pinterest Share on WhatsApp Read more Nottingham Forest Share on LinkedIn On a late summer afternoon in London, in a coffee shop a few yards away from the canal boats moored in Paddington Basin, Michael Doughty is eloquently piecing together his life story, talking about everything from wearing straw hats to school to scoring hat‑tricks for Swindon as he explains his unlikely journey into the “lion’s den” of professional football.Erudite and gregarious, Doughty breaks the mould when it comes to the stereotypical footballer. The 25-year-old is a straight-A student for a start (literally – he has 14 A grades on his CV) and was educated at Harrow. He is also the eldest son of Nigel, the former Nottingham Forest owner, who was a hugely successful businessman, staunch supporter of the Labour party and among the wealthiest people in Britain when he died six years ago, at the age of 54. Share via Email Topics Share on Facebook Doughty goes on to explain how he learned to “embrace that difference” between him and his teammates by “playing on” the predictable gags. “I’d get called ‘posh boy’ and all that stuff, in a jokey way,” the midfielder says. “My youth-team coach at QPR always used to make jokes about me landing on the field in a helicopter. It was hilarious and at the time it really was a good leveller for me. It was almost like: ‘You’re not at Harrow now, Mike, this is the real world. You’re not putting on your straw hat to go to lessons.’”Harrow evokes happy memories for Doughty, who describes the school as “almost like a modern-day Hogwarts without the magic”. In an understated way, he reveals he left with 10 GCSEs, eight of them A*s and the other two As, as well as not too shabby A-level results. “I did French, Spanish, geography and Latin. I got four As,” says Doughty, who was combining his studies with training and playing for QPR’s youth team at the time.Doughty is “under no illusions that [Harrow] is an incredibly privileged environment”, and recognises he has much to thank his father for in that respect. “He was from a working-class background, he didn’t do his A-levels, he didn’t go to university, and in a weird way I was probably living vicariously through his childhood dreams – going to a great school and having this career in football.”Over the course of an enjoyable hour-long chat, Doughty tells some lovely stories about his father, who was a lifelong Forest supporter. He remembers how they would go into the Lady Bay pub, just around the corner from the City Ground, to meet up with Patrick Bamford, who now plays for Leeds, and his father, Russell, who was best friends with Doughty’s dad, before taking their seats in the Brian Clough stand to watch their heroes. “Then, within a month, we were sat on the other side in the directors’ box,” says Doughty, smiling. “It’s credit to my dad that he still allowed me to stand on my chair and wear my Forest shirt.”Doughty’s father, who made his money as a venture capitalist, took over as Forest’s owner in 1999 and invested more than £100m in the club, yet he never got the success he craved. In October 2011, with Forest struggling in the Championship and supporter unrest growing, he announced he was standing down as chairman following what he described as a “very poor decision” to appoint Steve McClaren as manager. Four months later, he was found dead in the gymnasium at his home in Lincolnshire after having a heart attack.Although Doughty says the family “definitely feel a shift now in terms of his legacy at Forest”, he wishes his father knew just how much he was appreciated. “I remember just before he passed away he was really troubled by the reaction and relationship with the fans. I think it was a small minority but it still had quite a strong impact on him. And then afterwards we had this outpouring of love. So it’s bittersweet for me because I would have loved for him to have seen that.”For Doughty, who has an elder sister, Helena, and two younger brothers, Sean and Lucas, it has taken time to adjust to life without his father. “I didn’t necessarily deal with it for a while, I just sort of lived and was in this haze, trying to do the best I could,” he says. “And without getting too emotional, I made a promise to him when I saw him for the last time, which was that it’s my responsibility now to do that. He always taught me to be a man of my word and that’s what I take forward. I just try to do my best.”As the interview draws to a close and Doughty prepares to head back to the flat he shares in London with his fiancee, Anoushka, he wants to add one more thing in relation to his father. “I’m not trying to play a little violin,” he says. “I went to the best public school in the UK, I had the best head start in life, I’ve got everything that I could ever need in terms of family support and I’m doing every kid’s dream, which is playing football at a weekend in front of people. So I genuinely always feel quite lucky and grateful. And that’s just how I live my life, to be honest.” news Michael Doughty in action for Swindon against Newport. Photograph: Nigel Keene/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock Swindon Share on Messenger Facebook Pinterest Doughty, in short, is different. “I’ll never apologise for my background because I’m very proud of what my dad was able to achieve and I’m very proud of my own achievements, and that’s who I am,” he says. “Whether you’re from a council estate in Liverpool or you went to probably the most quintessential British school, there’s common ground and that’s being a human being and a good person.“Some of my best mates in football, we are polar opposites, but that’s what I love so much about it; you create friendships for life with people who you would never normally mix with. And that’s a really amazing part of the job.”Carving out a career as a footballer has been far from easy. Released by Chelsea after five years in their academy, Doughty moved on to Queens Park Rangers, where he spent a decade, making 16 appearances for the club in between eight loan spells. By the age of 22 he had played in all four divisions in England as well as the Scottish Premiership.Although he is thoroughly enjoying his football with Swindon, one of his biggest frustrations is that people continue to question whether someone with his upbringing possesses the hunger and desire to succeed in the game. “It’s a misconception and it’s something that still faces me today,” says Doughty, who has scored five goals in seven league games this season, including three on the opening day.I wouldn’t use the word prejudice but it’s a preconception of who I am, probably based on a caricature of Boris Johnson“I wouldn’t use the word prejudice, but it’s a preconception of who I am and probably based on some caricature in the Times of Boris Johnson. Just because you’re from a background of X doesn’t mean you don’t have any hunger. I think anyone that has worked with me in football, or outside of that, wouldn’t label that against me. But it’s just an easy narrative that is used in wider society. It’s as if people from well-off backgrounds, or good educations, are a certain type of person and people from lower-income backgrounds are of a certain way. And that’s just not the case. Not everyone is motivated in the same way or by the same things. I’ve always been motivated to be the best footballer that I can be.”Doughty smiles when it is put to him that the football industry can be a brutal place, especially for someone who stands out from the crowd. “To walk into the lion’s den which is the football dressingroom, and which can be unforgiving … at first I found myself trying to fit in, which obviously I don’t. Or I didn’t at that time. And I didn’t really know how to deal with that dynamic.“But my dad was always very strong with me and said: ‘Give as good as you get. You’ve got to be a man for them to take you seriously. And you’re there for ability and nothing else.’ And that’s one thing about football: it’s a complete meritocracy. You get to the point where you’re meant to get to and that’s based on work ethic and talent. And that’s what I’ve always loved – my football ability will always speak ahead of my grades, my background and the school that I went to.” Reuse this content Twitter Share on Twitter Grimsby manager Michael Jolley: ‘I saw the second tower fall – that stays with you’last_img