Thur Sep 29, 1977 – Bohs Pair Sign for Derby
Well, that didn’t take long. Thirty years ago yesterday, new Derby County manager Tommy Docherty had hired a private jet to fly to the Newcastle Bohs game. He then slept overnight in the sauna room of the hotel that Bohs were staying in, after offering Bohs a record-breaking £75,000 for Fran O’Brien and Gerry Ryan. As it happens, I have a very minor personal experience of Docherty’s eccentricity. Many years later, in 1998, when I was travelling on the Eurostar train to the World Cup Final in Paris, I was woken from my snoozing by a loud voice checking train tickets. It turned out to be an extremely drunk Tommy Docherty, pretending to be a ticket inspector. He didn’t even have a ticket for the World Cup Final; he was just going across anyway to watch the game in a French pub.
Ryan and O’Brien were so impressed by Docherty that they instantly agreed terms, turning down a financially better deal offered by Newcastle United. Ironically, the temperamental Scotsman was already in a showdown with another former Bohemian. While managing Manchester United, Docherty had sold midfielder Gerry Daly to Derby. Now that Docherty had taken over at Derby, Daly had put in a transfer request, which Docherty had refused. And there were three other Irish players at Derby – former Waterford midfielder Tony Macken, full-back Dave Langan, Derby’s player of the season that year, and midfielder Donal O’Riordan.
Docherty sealed his latest deal by flying the two players on his private jet, along with Bohs manager Billy Young and Secretary Dick McFetridge, to the FA headquarters to get them registered in time to play for Derby on the Saturday. Media leaks suggested that O’Brien and Ryan would now be on £200 a week, and would each have a £5,000 Saab car with their names printed on the side. And they would spend the next few days preparing for a Saturday clash at the Baseball Ground against Middlesboro, instead a Sunday clash at Dalymount Park against the might of Home Farm.
Docherty’s midnight swoop brought to seven the number of League of Ireland players that he had brought to England. While at Manchester United he had bought goalkeeper Pat Roche and Fran O’Brien’s brother Ray from Shelbourne, and Mick Martin, Gerry Daly and Ashley Grimes from Bohemians.