No more Mr Nice Guy

Doyle relaxed as clock ticks down to Euros - but will soon have to find his inner steel

Paul Hyland

JUST once or maybe twice it would be good to see Kevin Doyle snarl at a few journalists or lose the rag very publicly with his club manager. There are times when he is too chilled out for his own good.

Chilled out doesn't mean lacking in the kind of qualities managers like to see in professional footballers; qualities like loyalty and commitment to the team first and himself second.

But there's an obvious paradox here. By nature, a striker must have a streak of selfishness bordering on arrogance but Doyle plays the role of good soldier as default and wouldn't have a bad word to say about anyone.

Yesterday in his first pre-Euro2012 media appearance, Doyle was his usual amiable self and when he spoke about Wolves' season and the five-man rivalry for two places in Giovanni Trapattoni's attack, he did so with the fatalistic outlook of someone who has been too long in the trenches and needs a break.

He spoke about circumstances and the need to be adaptable but there was one short sentence which stuck out.


"I would never moan if I'm picked in whatever position," he said, referring back to five seasons of hard slog as Steve Coppell's workhorse at Reading and then a slave to circumstances at Wolves.

And there it is. "Never moan". Maybe he should. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing if he added a bit of Drogba to Doyle every once in a while.

When he first came to our attention, it was as a beautifully balanced athlete with goals in his feet. But he approaches Euro 2012, perhaps betrayed by the very qualities which Coppell and McCarthy leaned on too much.

"You can never be too loyal. I've been very well looked after by Reading and Wolves and I've never felt I missed out on anything. They've looked after me contract-wise very well."

But could he have been more selfish in terms of his career down through the years?

"Selfish, career-wise? Yea, you could be right. You might want to do one thing though and you're not let and there's nothing you can do about it," he said.

"There's no point in giving out about it. There have been different things but I'm no different to any other player and just because there's a chance to go somewhere doesn't mean it will happen."

It is ironic and unfortunate that if he had shouted about it, as so many players do these days, he might have got the move he wanted.

Experience brings clarity, however, as well as war-weariness and realism.

Doyle has had enough of hard luck stories.

"I would love to be back in the Premier League but I don't want to be relegated again," he said and the clear implication is that those clubs which might have expressed interest at one time or other won't be playing Champions League football any time soon.

"I would rather have a year in the Championship fighting for promotion. If it's mid-table obscurity or a relegation battle, well at least you're battling for something."

Doyle's fatalism is clearly a symptom of a dreary season at Molineux and he will need the extra care and attention Trapattoni has promised to lavish upon his lost Wolves.


He did manage to muster a small show of resistance when it was pointed out that he had been criticised for the amount of goals he has managed.

"This season, no the goal-scoring wasn't good. But I've been in the Premier League with a team favourite to be relegated and I've finished top scorer in those teams in the majority of seasons. I was top-scorer when I was in the Championship too. You can look at statistics all sorts of ways."

Doyle will do his best to show Trapattoni that he can recover his sparkle in the bosom of the Ireland family but once again, there is a hint of the negative thoughts which have been banging on the door trying to get in for quite a while.

"All five strikers want to play and it's never been any different. I want to be fit and sharp in training. I feel fit, which is nice.

"He'll want to see how we're training. I won't do anything different - no more than normal. Whether that's good enough or not... " he said, his voice trailing off to nothing.

"I always have an inner confidence. I know I can play. But the day-to-day can be up and down, like any job."

Most of the time, if he's fit, Doyle is Trapattoni's first choice to partner Robbie Keane but Shane Long finished the season strongly and is probably a marginal favourite to start against Croatia.

But anyone prepared to downgrade Doyle prematurely should remember one glorious moment in Bratislava when all the stars came into alignment and he scored one of the great Ireland goals of the modern era.

That's the kind of player we all hoped for and imagined when Doyle began to make his way at Reading.

That player is still in there somewhere but maybe not fighting hard enough to get out.

Trapattoni has a job to do.