RYAN DOCHERTY has enjoyed his time at Beith since arriving in 2017, but this campaign ranks as his worst.

The tough tackling and versatile player, known for taking part in Iron Man Triathlons when not figuring at the heart of the Ayrshire club’s back line, has won every major honour, barring the Scottish Junior Cup, during his time at Bellsdale.

He is regarded as one of manager Bryan Young’s defensive cornerstones so it is all the more surprising that nothing has been seen of the 34-year-old other than a typically uncompromising performance in Beith’s 5-1 pre-season friendly win over Cambuslang Rangers in early October.

It turns out his extended down time has been due to injury.

"I underwent a hernia operation in April last year and gradually worked my way back to fitness, culminating in my appearance in the game against Cambuslang Rangers," Docherty said. “I found the 90 minutes to be a bit of a struggle if truth be told because I just wasn’t at ease, running full out or going into tackles, and I had to take action when matters didn’t improve at our training sessions.

“Another scan examination revealed a deep tear in the groin, stretching up into my abductor, so a second bout of surgery is now required which is going to have a lengthy recuperation period so I have all but written off any thoughts of a playing return this season.

“It’s frustrating not least because it’s not thought best practice to take a year out at my age. However, once fully fit I am firmly of the mind there’s enough juice in the tank for a few more seasons at Beith - if they still want me of course."

Docherty, the proud owner of a full set of coaching badges, has worked hard to make his mark on the Scottish football scene even though his career did not get off to the best of starts when released by Celtic despite holding down a regular place in the same Under 18 team as Charlie Mulgrew and Aiden McGeady.

This crushing blow saw his boots thrown in a cupboard for a number of years and the footwear might have stayed there but for the Lanark United management duo of Tam McDonald and John Gibson persuading him to turn out for their Moor Park side. Over the next five years he established himself as one of the fans' favourites before joining Lesmahagow for a short stint where his swashbuckling style caught the eye of Rutherglen Glencairn boss Willie Harvey.

Docherty stood out at the Glens and his transfer in the 2017 close season to Queen's Park, just in time to appear in their televised 5-1 League Cup defeat by Motherwell, promised even better things to come.

But less than a month down the line, Docherty was putting pen to paper for Beith to seal a move he has never regretted.

"It’s a great club with a really loyal fan base and I’m happy here, so much so that I was never going to join the many team-mates who moved away at the start of this season," he said. “Butch [Bryan Young] has been left with a tough rebuilding job, hardly helped by my injury as well as that of Nikky Docherty, still not 100 per cent after cruciate ligament surgery, so it speaks volumes about the young talent coming through the ranks for Beith to be holding their own and remaining unbeaten in the Premier Division.

“Word is Nikky is close to coming back and his defensive nous will no doubt be welcomed by similarly experienced types Paul Frize, Stevie Noble, Ally Park and Larry McMahon, but it grates even more with me that I cannot commit to making any contribution in this respect.”

More than a few opponents will raise their eyebrows on discovering Docherty’s hard-as-nails demeanour on the playing front is in stark contrast to his off-the-pitch activities. His day job as a Housing Officer can have its challenging times, while his great passion is developing his On The Ball Academy which he set up at Victoria Park in Scotstoun.

“The satisfaction derived from working with young kids and seeing how much they enjoy carrying out teamwork and skill-enhancing football routines has to be second to none in my book," he said. “My initial intention was to get something up and running predominantly for children around where I stay in the West End of Glasgow, but as word has spread of the work-outs we do, there are others coming from further afield in the city and we are now catering for more than 60 in number across a 4-to-16 age range.

“Working in one-to-one sessions is the ideal for developing young players of the future and the appetite shown by the children is amazing, as is the improvements in their abilities.

“A move into Junior football management or coaching when my playing days are over had looked on the cards for me, but I now think working with kids is more up my street.”