Peter Doherty was a legend in British football well before he joined Rovers, from Huddersfield Town, in April 1949.
He had won the Football League Championship while at Manchester City and the FA Cup while with Derby County as well as being capped 16 times by his native Northern Ireland. He was an immensely gifted inside-forward as well as someone who had strong views about how football should be played. Rovers hired him to be player-manager and he led them to their most successful period ever.
Doherty took over a team in Division Three (North) and led them to the Championship in his first season, 1949-50, scoring 27 goals from 35 appearances. The following season he was again top scorer, with 14 goals, as Rovers finished 11th in the second tier. Thereafter his playing contribution was more limited, although he played on until just before his 40th birthday, but he became more influential as a manager. He was a great innovator, setting up a scouting network in Ireland which provided Rovers with talented players such as Len Graham, Harry Gregg and Kit Lawlor.
He believed that players should train with the ball to develop their skills in contrast to the emphasis of the time on endless running. He introduced floodlights for training and then used them for a series of well-attended friendlies. He oversaw the development of the young Alick Jeffrey, perhaps Rovers’ greatest player, and he combined his role with management of the Northern Ireland national side which reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1958.
Doherty had left Rovers by then, resigning as manager in January 1958 and moving on to Bristol City, following a series of disputes with a member of the Rovers Board. It was perhaps no coincidence that Rovers were relegated at the end of that season and did not return to the second tier for 50 years. Doherty settled in Lancashire and died there in 1990, aged 76. He was a great player, and probably Rovers’ finest manager.
Rovers Debut: 20th August 1949, Division Three (North) vs. Bradford City (away) won 2-1.
Final game: 28th March 1953, Division Two vs. West Ham United (away) won 3-1.
Career: Football League: 103 appearances, 57 goals. All senior games: 109 appearances, 60 goals
Honours: Division Three (North) Champions 1949-50.