Doherty picks up Barry Butler trophy

CHRIS LAKEY Gary Doherty believes consistency is the key to Norwich City's fortunes next season - just as it has helped the Republic of Ireland defender pick up the prestigious Barry Butler Memorial Trophy as player of the season.


Gary Doherty believes consistency is the key to Norwich City's fortunes next season - just as it has helped the Republic of Ireland defender pick up the prestigious Barry Butler Memorial Trophy as player of the season.

Doherty received his award before yesterday's final game of the season, pushing the ever-popular Darren Huckerby and Paul McVeigh into second and third places respectively.

"It means an awful lot, I am absolutely over the moon to be honest," said Doherty, who made it a double when he was named sponsor's man of the match for his performance against Wolves.

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"It is very important that the fans respect you and think you have done a great job."

Doherty had a season to remember - in sharp contrast to his opening campaign for the Canaries after signing from Spurs for £100,000 in the early stages of City's Premiership campaign in 2004.

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"I was in and out of the team and playing in different positions last year, but this year I have had a pretty rock-solid season," said the 26-year-old. "I have played at the back most of the season and I think that has helped me a lot."

Having been shuffled between the centre of defence and a striker's role, Doherty has finally established himself as number one choice in the middle of City's back four - and has revelled in the challenge, although he clearly made his own contribution to his change in fortune.

"I worked quite hard towards the end of last season and very hard in the summer - and that is something I have to do again this year and come back even stronger next season, because we really need to start pushing forward next season."

While Doherty's personal star has been in the ascendancy, City's has fallen, with a ninth-place finish indicative of a season which promised so much but provided so little.

"We know it's not good enough, collectively as a team we know that, and obviously it's something we have got to put right," said Doherty.

"We had a terrible start to the season and really didn't give ourselves a chance to recover and that's something we have to be mindful of next year, to get off to a good start and make Carrow Road a real fortress like it has been towards the end of the season and I am sure we can start pushing for promotion."

The key to being at the business end of proceedings rather than scrapping in mid-table is simple - and it all boils down to consistency.

"I think we need a few more signings and our key players to stay clear of injuries," said Doherty. "It felt this year we'd get a good run going and then a few players would get injured and players would be in and out and it was difficult to get continuity going.

"That's the main thing for next year - we really have to keep a solid 16 players fit and playing week in, week out and we can all get to know each other's games and I think that will help us a lot next year.

"We need to stop conceding goals - I think we have conceded far too many and that might have come with the defence changing quite a lot. It's difficult to get to know each other's game - that is the main thing, continuity; the same players playing week in, week out."

Doherty praised yesterday's goal scorer Robert Earnshaw for an eight-goal contribution since his move to Carrow Road in January that bodes well for the future.

"It's fantastic for the fans to see that, especially towards the end of the year, we have brought him in and I think it has probably got the team passing a lot more," said Doherty.

He added: "We have smallish players up front and we are starting to pass the ball around more and that's a good thing and something which will bode well for next season.

"The midfield have come on strong towards the end of the season - there is the spine of a good team, we just have to make sure all the key players stay and add a few more and we can be a real strong squad."

The make-up of next season's squad will become clearer as the summer goes on, with goalkeeper Robert Green bound to figure on the rumour-mill, but Doherty isn't certain there will be that many movers.

"I don't know - obviously there will be speculation as there will for all of our top players, but I think the signs are good," he said. "I think all the lads are quite happy."

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