Doyle needs rub of green

As Wolves toil, striker's chance to prove worth lies in wearing Irish shirt

Paul Hyland

HERE'S a snapshot from training. Kevin Doyle leans into a cross from the right and meets the ball with a sweet, sweet volley. Perfect shape, perfect poise and Shay Given is beaten all ends up. A few yards away Robbie Keane nods his head in appreciation.

It's one of the mysteries of this transfer window and indeed, the entire summer past that nobody made a serious offer for Doyle. In a market which pegs Carlton Cole at £12m, James Milner at £26m, why did nobody see the value that was available at Molineux?

Mick McCarthy played a blinder in the close season, downplaying any talk of a move for Doyle and at the same time suggesting that anyone who wanted him would have to part with very serious money, probably a number somewhere between Cole and Milner.

There was talk of Arsenal and Chelsea early in the summer but pretty much all of the mild speculation which focused on Doyle tailed off to nothing once the World Cup got under way. While England were enduring a very public humiliation in South Africa, the tabloids had more than enough froth to fill their pages and didn't really wind up the hype about the deadline day until the last few weeks.

McCarthy can be thankful for that, though he may well have played his own part in making sure that he held onto his prize asset. He has an excellent relationship with Arsene Wenger and strong ties with Chelsea, too, so perhaps he was able to steer both clubs away from his top man or even persuade them that it was worthwhile to allow Doyle to develop for a while longer without having to deal with the enormous pressures that come with a big fee and a big club.

But even McCarthy must be slightly bemused and certainly more than delighted by the fact that Doyle did not attract a bevy of clubs and agents from across Europe, all vying for the signature of a player who has improved year on year to the point where Giovanni Trapattoni believes that he could play at any level and flourish.

Doyle chipped in with his own view of the months and years ahead by explaining that he was more than happy playing with Wolves and had ambitions to fulfil at Molineux. Clubs seemed to take him at his word.

He's a firm believer in the slow road to the top and so far, it's been the right policy. But this is a big season for Doyle and over the next eight months, he needs to bag at least 15 goals to prove to big clubs that he is worth the type of investment they would need to make to sign him.

That won't be easy, given the emphasis McCarthy has once again put on survival in the Premier League and the mile-munching hard graft he requires of Doyle in virtually every game.

So it is entirely possible that Doyle's best chance to show Europe what he can do will be in the green of Ireland.

The goal he scored in training yesterday was a thing of great beauty and perhaps a sign of things to come. Keane's days are numbered and Doyle is overdue a scoring run. He's got eight in 35 games since his debut against Sweden four years ago and it is noteworthy that six of them came in competitive games and were badly needed.


But he needs more and no better time than now to start accumulating them. The scary sight of Keane wearing a knee support in training on Tuesday underlined the fact that Trapattoni and Ireland badly need to Doyle to turn potential into a strike rate that would mark the Wexfordman as a goalscorer of international class.

As things stand, Trapattoni wants Doyle to keep doing what he has been doing. The role requires tireless running, tackling back and providing a supply line for Keane and it hasn't really changed since 2008.

But we must assume that within two or three years, Doyle will take on the primary striking role and the time is about right for him to live up to that possibility.

For now, Keane remains Trapattoni's top man but he cannot expect to play anything more than a peripheral role at White Hart Lane in the coming months and there's a better than even chance that he will be out of there by January.

That's not a concern for Trapattoni in the short term, but he knows that Keane cannot remain benched for too much longer and hope to maintain the crucial edge that makes a striker hum.

"Robbie is mature," he said. "He is balanced in his mind about football because he knows the game from many years in England. Of course, I am selfish at the moment for the Ireland team and for me and Ireland it would be better if he plays games. But at the moment, I'm not concerned about his condition for 90 minutes because he can play 90 minutes in his head also."

Trapattoni believes that Keane is properly fired up for the games against Armenia and Andorra and that his club circumstances will act as a nice motivator. "Yes, he is proud and I'm sure he can play like we know he can play. I am sure of this," said Trapattoni.

Obviously, Trapattoni sees no gamble in relying on so many players who haven't been playing for their clubs or haven't been able to play because of injury. Nor does he view the notion of Paul Green as a starter against the Armenians with any difficulty.

"In the past, we have had four or five who only have experience in the second league in England. It's important that they understand immediately our system and what I ask them to do."


"Paul Green showed us that he is confident. He has good personality, he's fast, he's quick and I like his mentality. We have other players I can pick in midfield like Gibson and also Fahey. Don't forget Fahey because he has a good personality. Two years ago, I looked for this and now I am happy because I am confident we have good options."

Trapattoni will begin to focus in on Armenian strengths and weaknesses which his players must confront and overcome in Yerevan. The first and most obvious factor will be the heat.

The squad arrived late last night and were met with a blast of hot air which carried the promise of even hotter temperatures but Trapattoni is more concerned about hot heads than bubbling mercury.

"Psychologically, this will be different for us. At home they are hard and they make a physical impression," he said. "They will try to provoke us.

"We must be calm and play with the mentality we had last year in the last campaign. We need to understand that the result is more important than anything else."