Anthony McIntyre 🔖 Not a Manchester United fan, I did ease up on them a bit after watching the side turn out against Sampdoria in Dublin. 

It was a few years back. I went because my son was eager to watch his then favourite team. He has since switched loyalties to Liverpool this season while their fortunes are on the down in contrast to United's. The switch is what led to him currently being in Manchester for today's game between the Anfield men and City. I confess to being red with envy. A title decider perhaps but not the type my son wished for.

My friend Dave, a fount of erudition on sporting matters, gave me this book a number of years ago as a birthday present. It charts the life of a young Strabane man who on the verge of stardom, sustained an injury which effectively pulled the curtain down on a promising playing career before it had even started. He was never fielded once for the Old Trafford first team, being injured a week before both he and Ryan Giggs were due for inclusion in the squad for the game against Everton.

By all accounts Adrian Doherty was brilliant, the authentic lost genius referred to in the title of the book. Ryan Giggs considered him to be in possession of even silkier skills than those the Welsh Wizard himself came equipped with. Yet, so little is known about him. His life ended in a canal in the Netherlands at the young age of 26, a day before his 27th birthday. In ten years his world had not only collapsed, it ended. The name that would never be emblazoned in the bright lights of stardom alongside Giggs, Beckham and Scholes. The player who was estimated by someone with unrivalled awareness of the Old Trafford youth academy to be Ryan Giggs, Andrei Kanchelskis and Cristiano Ronaldo rolled into one. This was a story simply begging to be told.

In 2011 Oliver Kay was alerted to the precocious talent of Adrian while conducting some research for a historical piece he planned to write. Intrigued by a virtual absence of information on the internet about such an allegedly prodigious talent he began his own quest for the lost star of the class of 92.

From Strabane through Galway, Preston, New York and back to Manchester, the story is very much one of someone not your average teenager aspiring to soccer greatness. When his teammates assembled to watch the first team at Old Trafford on a Saturday afternoon Adrian would get on the bus but not the team one. Its destination was Manchester city Centre where he would busk. He derived as much pleasure from music as he did from soccer, causing Alex Ferguson to describe him as "the boy with the most amazing football skill, but who seemed to be happiest with his books, poems and guitar."

When he turned 17 he was offered a five year contract. A cruciate ligament knee injury would eventually see him done for. While others who played alongside him in the academy were reaching the top shelf of European soccer success he ended up at the bottom of a European canal.

Did the management at Manchester United exercise a duty of care to him? There is little can be said in the way of special pleading for Irish kids who make the journey across but it seemed other than finding lodgings the Man U set up was ill equipped for much else. Adrian's father Jimmy who made numerous journeys in a bid to help his son cope with the world of Old Trafford recounted “dealing with a big, faceless corporate machine.'

Not the type of sports biography we are often exposed to. More in the sombre mood of Ronald Reng's A Life Too Short - on the life and tragic death of the German international goalkeeper, Robert Enke - Kay punches through the facade of glitz and serves up the grit and the grime. A captivating read despite at 450 pages being considerably longer than needed. The glitz and the glamour are things that are elusive to the soccer apprentice. It is all about earning your spurs even if not playing for Tottenham. The competition is stiff, the margins slender, the cast offs plentiful, the end painful. A sad tale of a life and talent drowned out.

Oliver Kay, 2017, Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football's Lost Genius. Published by Quercus ISBN-13: 978-1848669871.

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Forever Young

Anthony McIntyre 🔖 Not a Manchester United fan, I did ease up on them a bit after watching the side turn out against Sampdoria in Dublin. 

It was a few years back. I went because my son was eager to watch his then favourite team. He has since switched loyalties to Liverpool this season while their fortunes are on the down in contrast to United's. The switch is what led to him currently being in Manchester for today's game between the Anfield men and City. I confess to being red with envy. A title decider perhaps but not the type my son wished for.

My friend Dave, a fount of erudition on sporting matters, gave me this book a number of years ago as a birthday present. It charts the life of a young Strabane man who on the verge of stardom, sustained an injury which effectively pulled the curtain down on a promising playing career before it had even started. He was never fielded once for the Old Trafford first team, being injured a week before both he and Ryan Giggs were due for inclusion in the squad for the game against Everton.

By all accounts Adrian Doherty was brilliant, the authentic lost genius referred to in the title of the book. Ryan Giggs considered him to be in possession of even silkier skills than those the Welsh Wizard himself came equipped with. Yet, so little is known about him. His life ended in a canal in the Netherlands at the young age of 26, a day before his 27th birthday. In ten years his world had not only collapsed, it ended. The name that would never be emblazoned in the bright lights of stardom alongside Giggs, Beckham and Scholes. The player who was estimated by someone with unrivalled awareness of the Old Trafford youth academy to be Ryan Giggs, Andrei Kanchelskis and Cristiano Ronaldo rolled into one. This was a story simply begging to be told.

In 2011 Oliver Kay was alerted to the precocious talent of Adrian while conducting some research for a historical piece he planned to write. Intrigued by a virtual absence of information on the internet about such an allegedly prodigious talent he began his own quest for the lost star of the class of 92.

From Strabane through Galway, Preston, New York and back to Manchester, the story is very much one of someone not your average teenager aspiring to soccer greatness. When his teammates assembled to watch the first team at Old Trafford on a Saturday afternoon Adrian would get on the bus but not the team one. Its destination was Manchester city Centre where he would busk. He derived as much pleasure from music as he did from soccer, causing Alex Ferguson to describe him as "the boy with the most amazing football skill, but who seemed to be happiest with his books, poems and guitar."

When he turned 17 he was offered a five year contract. A cruciate ligament knee injury would eventually see him done for. While others who played alongside him in the academy were reaching the top shelf of European soccer success he ended up at the bottom of a European canal.

Did the management at Manchester United exercise a duty of care to him? There is little can be said in the way of special pleading for Irish kids who make the journey across but it seemed other than finding lodgings the Man U set up was ill equipped for much else. Adrian's father Jimmy who made numerous journeys in a bid to help his son cope with the world of Old Trafford recounted “dealing with a big, faceless corporate machine.'

Not the type of sports biography we are often exposed to. More in the sombre mood of Ronald Reng's A Life Too Short - on the life and tragic death of the German international goalkeeper, Robert Enke - Kay punches through the facade of glitz and serves up the grit and the grime. A captivating read despite at 450 pages being considerably longer than needed. The glitz and the glamour are things that are elusive to the soccer apprentice. It is all about earning your spurs even if not playing for Tottenham. The competition is stiff, the margins slender, the cast offs plentiful, the end painful. A sad tale of a life and talent drowned out.

Oliver Kay, 2017, Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football's Lost Genius. Published by Quercus ISBN-13: 978-1848669871.

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

No comments