A midfielder in the traditional mould, the 21-year-old Scot is capable of contributing effectively in the attacking or defensive phases of play. What kind of player is Docherty, though, and what can Rangers fans expect over the second half of the season?
No matter the opponent, there was always one Hamilton player who stood out above the rest in the last two seasons: Docherty.
Playing primarily as a central midfielder, Docherty is so well rounded as a player that it is almost impossible to isolate and analyse his greatest strength. He plays across the central midfield line rather than as a defensive midfielder but, in the defensive phase, he is hugely effective at preventing space for the opposition.
A typically combative Scottish midfielder, Docherty is comfortable whether asked to press the opposition high up the field or dropping into a slightly deeper block to prevent the opponent from accessing the centre of the field through passing lanes.
It is in the attacking phase of play, however, that Docherty tends to me more impressive. For all his stamina and work rate the creative side of his game is often overlooked, he is a good passer of the ball with the range to play more direct passes in to wide areas and the ability to play shorter passes to combine with teammates in to the final third.
One of the most striking aspects of Docherty’s game is that he always looks to play a positive pass; he rarely looks to recycle possession via short passes that offer no penetration and will instead look to be positive when in possession of the ball. Given that he was this positive playing for a side of the stature of Hamilton it will be interesting to see how he fits in to the tactical structure at Rangers where he will enjoy more time in possession of the ball.
One aspect of his game in which Docherty should be looking to improve is his goal output which has been relatively poor for a central player who gets into advanced positions in the final third.
That said, however, Docherty can claim one of the most important goals in Hamilton’s recent history when he scored the winner against Dundee United in the 2016/17 relegation playoff. After bagging that goal Docherty made it clear he saw adding goals to his game to be a necessary step in his development as a player.
Indeed, before signing for Rangers this month, Docherty had begun to make good on that, netting three goals and registering six assists in 21 matches for Hamilton. A sign, perhaps, he has taken a step towards fulfilling his potential.
Having signed for Rangers now however we may see the role played by Docherty shift slightly as he tries to establish himself in Graeme Murty’s squad. Prior to the start of this season Rangers had already added a Scottish international central midfielder in Ryan Jack, signed from Aberdeen, it is entirely possible though that Jack and Docherty will form an all Scottish partnership in the centre of the midfield for Rangers.
Whilst Jack is a player that prefers to maintain possession by circulating the ball across the width of the field he could be the ideal complement to the style of Docherty with the two providing balance in the centre of the park.
Docherty has the defensive capabilities to play as part of a two in the centre of a four-man midfield unit or as part of a three with a controlling midfielder sitting behind. His ability to press or defend passing lanes in equal measure will give Rangers the flexibility to adapt their defensive game-plan to their direct opponent.
Games against the likes of Ross County or Partick Thistle, for example, will require a far different approach than games against the likes of Old Firm rivals Celtic or Aberdeen. Indeed, the fact that Docherty is able to fulfil so many roles in midfield should ensure he plays plenty of first-team minutes at Rangers, something that has in the past eluded players signed from somewhat less illustrious domestic rivals.
There will be difficulties for Docherty to overcome as he starts his Rangers career. The change in terms of pressure when you move from a club like Hamilton to Rangers is huge. The expectation that he will make something happen every time he takes possession of the ball will also increase the pressure on the 21-year-old’s shoulders.
In fact, rather than technically or tactically, the biggest change that Docherty will experience will be mentally. The prevailing sense around the player, however, is that he will be capable of standing up to the increased pressure and indeed thriving. He has never been seen to shy away from taking charge of a match in difficult situations.
Docherty’s future will be interesting. We have already seen Jack awarded international recognition following his move from to Ibrox and there is every chance that if Docherty settles quickly and gains playing time that he will follow his new team-mate into the full national squad.
Increased exposure for a player like Docherty could also lead to interest from clubs south of the border. He has the profile of a player who would be extremely effective in English football, that may well come if he can continue to develop as a player and reach his potential with the Gers.