Kevin Doyle - Focused on rising again
Kevin Doyle is taking nothing for granted after play-off final, as he tells Dion Fanning
On Wednesday, Kevin Doyle was asked how he would like to resolve his uncertain professional future. "I'd like to go off to an island and be on a beach."
Doyle smiled as he replied but there may be a bit of truth in his answer too.
Next Saturday, he will be at Wembley for the Championship play-off final with QPR, the club he joined on loan in January. He is in the provisional Ireland squad for the four friendlies which begin 24 hours after the play-off finishes and end in the middle of June. Doyle will then return to Wolves for pre-season training which is scheduled to begin two weeks later, unless he has found another club by then.
By mid-June, QPR may have returned to the Premier League and if they were promoted and he could stay at the club, then he wouldn't have much thinking to do. "That's a straightforward answer," he says. "You know, what I want and what happens are two different things."
There was a time when the uncertainty would have bothered him. "I don't like stress," he said three years ago when asked about moving from Wolves.
At that stage, the club were in the Premier League, but in 2012 they were relegated and in 2013 they were relegated again. Doyle went from starting for Ireland in the European Championships to an outsider, discarded by Giovanni Trapattoni. "I love Doyle as a player and as a man," Trap said, but he left him out of his remaining squads as manager.
There has, Doyle admits, been a change in his attitude to football over the past two years, much of it caused by fatherhood. "It puts things more in perspective I think. The first thing you want to do is go home and see your child after training and you realise slowly that it is called professional football for a reason: because it is our job. Not that I didn't treat it as professionally as I could, but it's nice too to have that realisation when you have kids."
Over the past two years, Doyle has sounded more detached from the game. He has always been articulate and intelligent but as he considers every question sometimes it seems as if he is weary, having heard them all before.
"Everything just repeats itself and it's all the exact same, good spells, bad spells," he said three years ago and if the last two years have been less repetitive they have challenged him in a different way.
"I have always believed in myself, whether that shows or not I don't know. Self-belief is always there. The personal motivational side of it is the hardest. Especially in League One, I found that difficult."
For that reason, the speculation this summer won't be stressful, it will be exciting, he insists, even if he has no idea where he will be next season.
He started this season as a League One player with Wolves and was one of the senior players, along with Roger Johnson, Jamie O'Hara, Stephen Ward and Karl Henry, who were on the outside, doing basic training with the kids and practising among themselves.
There was no falling-out but they were the club's high earners and it was made clear that Wolves would try and get out of League One without them. "I don't feel bitter towards them or anything. It was such a total downer. We had three good years in the Premier League and then it was two years of a disaster zone. You can understand totally why they wanted a clear-out, fresh minds and fresh people who hadn't been through that."
Wolves had been "all over the place". He had watched them move through five managers in two years as Mick McCarthy was sacked shortly before relegation and was replaced by Terry Connor. Stale Solbakken arrived in the summer and lasted six months which was longer than Dean Saunders managed, before Kenny Jackett arrived to take them out of League One.
Doyle, who managed 16 league appearances for Wolves, knows he's entitled to a League One medal but isn't looking for one – "It must be in the post."
In January, QPR were looking for a replacement for the injured Charlie Austin and they took Doyle on loan. Compared to Wolves, QPR might have offered stability but nobody is putting them forward as an example of prudent long-term planning.
They were expected to win promotion automatically but Doyle is less surprised that it has been more of a struggle. "At Wolves we were one of the favourites to go up last year and we got relegated. We had one of the highest budgets and everything. From my point of view, It's not as easy as people think."
Doyle believes that Harry Redknapp has shown his skills in bringing the squad together after an uncertain period during the season.
"We've a lot of different characters, a lot of different nationalities, a lot of different people here. To get them all working together and blended together I think that's an achievement. People would go on about our budget but that doesn't mean anything. You have to get all those people on the same page."
If it wasn't for the play-offs, Doyle's season would have ended in March when he damaged a knee ligament. He returned to Wolves for treatment but Redknapp was encouraging, telling him he would be needed if QPR were in the play-offs. He started against Wigan last Monday and will hope to be involved again at Wembley against Derby County.
The play-off final will be billed as the game that can earn its clubs a fortune but Doyle would have preferred to have been promoted automatically and avoided the fuss of next weekend.
After that, the summer is uncertain. He was named in the provisional Irish squad but that is all he knows. "It's a big squad, I have seen it. Every player who is Irish is in the squad."
After his time in exile under Trapattoni, Doyle wants to play as much as he can for Ireland. "I don't know what the plans are. There's not an itinerary or at least I haven't been sent one."
If he is part of the squad which is expected to be reduced early this week, he will travel for the game against Italy in London and the two games in the US.
Doyle doesn't see it as a problem when he is looking for a new club, in fact he thinks it could help. "It's probably good to go with Ireland and play and show you are fit. I have no problem with it. I will go and try to get more than 14 days off at the other side because it has been a long year."
The friendlies allow Martin O'Neill an opportunity to get to know the players but Doyle also accepts that there is a financial aspect. "I understand why they have to have these games. They have spen . . . Ireland isn't the economy it was when they built the Aviva and what they had planned for it. I know one of the reasons for these games in America is to make money, basically."
Doyle is asked if playing too many games is a problem for the players and he answers carefully. "No matter what I say I will get in a muddle over that one. We play for our country and one of the things is to help our association make money to pay for stadiums and new young kids to be developed to come through."
It is the answer of a considered and experienced professional.
Sunday Indo Sport