Doughty stepped from an elite public school to lower-league football

From the straw hats of elite public school at Harrow to the muck-and-nettles of lower-league football, Swindon’s Michael Doughty is loving ‘the best job in the world’

  • He is the eldest son of multi-millionaire venture capitalist Nigel Doughty 
  • The midfielder helped Swindon claim the League Two title last season
  • Doughty also runs a business producing ‘the world’s most sustainable trainers’

The last thing Michael Doughty is searching for is sympathy. It’s true, the League Two title winning celebrations were ‘a bit strange’ for Swindon Town in lockdown, but, as he says, ‘there are bigger things going on in the world’.

Yes, it was ‘pretty seismic’, he admits, coping with the sudden death of his father in his teenage years and yet he realises others from less privileged backgrounds have lived through similar tragedies.

And, of course, while the step from the straw hats of elite public school at Harrow to the muck-and-nettles of lower-league football was something of a culture shock, playing professional sport is ‘the best job in the world’.

Midfielder Michael Doughty helped Swindon claim the League Two title last season

Doughty, just to be clear, is not an archetypal footballer. He is the eldest son of former Nottingham Forest owner, multi-millionaire venture capitalist Nigel Doughty and, when not creating chances and scoring goals from midfield at Swindon, he runs a business producing ‘the world’s most sustainable trainers’, made from natural materials and fully recyclable.

‘I had a great opportunity to go into a fantastic school environment,’ says 27-year-old Doughty, who collected 14 grade As in his academic exams. ‘Then it materialised I wasn’t bad at football. It was unique being in the Harrow bubble and then in football’s very different bubble.

‘It’s part of who I am, I don’t hide that, and it’s probably helped my career. You form good habits and discipline through the relentlessness of how the school operates and that’s something I carried into my football career.

‘We all know the odds are stacked against you making it in football. To make an appearance is one thing, to stay in the game is another.’

The 27-year-old is the eldest son of multi-millionaire venture capitalist Nigel Doughty

He developed in the youth ranks at Queens Park Rangers rather than join his father, who saved Forest from administration in 1999 and poured in more than £100million of his personal fortune before stepping down in 2011.

‘Geographically it wasn’t viable and we were both aware of the nepotism,’ says Doughty. ‘I didn’t want to be there as the chairman’s son and he didn’t want that either. We were clear from the start we wanted some degree of separation, as much as I love Forest.

‘They were a big part of my childhood. I went home and away for many years. I cried all the way home after watching them lose at Bramall Lane in a play-off semi-final when Des Walker scored an own goal.’

Doughty played for seven clubs while on loan from QPR and was 19 and between spells at Crawley and Aldershot when his father died in February 2012. Nigel was 54, he suffered a heart attack in his gym at home and an inquest found the cause was sudden adult death syndrome.

‘It was pretty seismic in terms of the shock and the nature of how he passed away, it was so immediate. In many ways, it galvanised me to push forward. In other respects, it meant there were issues I didn’t really face at the time, in terms of grief.

‘Everyone has their own journey. Mine has been a privileged one, I have had a lot of opportunities and I know footballers, friends of mine, who have had difficult upbringings and had to go through similarly tough things.’

Doughty progressed from elite public school to the muck-and-nettles of lower-league football

Doughty is an EFL ambassador for Mind, a partnership established two years ago and recently extended to 2022, spreading awareness of mental health issues among fans and the wider public by sharing their personal experiences.

‘Barely a day goes past when I don’t think about Dad,’ he says. ‘I have such fond memories and definitely during last season, a successful season with Swindon, a club where I’d had a kind of on-off love affair, in the moment of celebration I did think, ‘yeah, he would have liked to have seen that’.

‘It serves as a reminder for me just to leave it out there on the pitch, enjoy as many games as I can because you never know what’s around the corner.’

Swindon were awarded the League Two title when the EFL decided not to complete the fixtures. They were top when the season was suspended, level on points with Crewe but with a better goal difference and a game in hand.

Players celebrated with boozy Zoom party before getting together when the lockdown eased for a formal if socially distanced trophy presentation. Back in League One, Richie Wellens’ side start at home against Rochdale and hope to use the momentum to help drive through and back to the Championship in the style of Luton and Coventry.

If Doughty has his way, they will continue their climb wearing his Hylo trainers. ‘It’s been a big part of my life in the last couple of years,’ he says. ‘Running trainers are made with synthetics and at the end of their life they take hundreds if not thousands of years to biodegrade.

‘I want to change that narrative, at the start by creating trainers using better materials and then the consumer is incentivised to send them back to us at the end of their life and we will make sure they’re recycled in the right way.

‘That’s the vision and we’d like to grow the production line to include apparel and football boots.’

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