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Paris hurt just part of the game, says Doyle

THE great thing about Kevin Doyle is that he's grounded enough to avoid getting caught up in the hysteria over the hand of Henry. Instead, his pragmatic response is to observe that the entire debacle is all part of the hand that feeds him.

Sure, the pain from that November night in Paris still hurts the Wolves striker. He generously concedes that it's probably worse for the fans and others who had pinned their hopes on a summer away; the day job of avoiding relegation from the Premier League has managed to occupy his mind.

In the bigger picture, however, the 26-year-old is reluctant to condemn Thierry Henry, or call for radical changes to the game arising from the endless replays and media circus that surrounded that most contentious of World Cup play-offs. His reasoning is that the game's ability to generate that level of headlines and attention is what pays his wages and supports his lifestyle. It's just not nice being the victim in this instance.

"Afterwards, I wasn't even angry with Henry," reflected Doyle yesterday, as he relaxed in the Shelbourne Hotel as part of a visit to launch ESPN's link-up with Chorus NTL.

"I was angry at how it couldn't be seen by a linesman or a referee more so. But then you think about it, you know it's football and decisions like that going against you are the reason why people are so passionate about the game, why it's on TV.

"Programmes are set up on radio and TV to just talk about incidents like that. If TV replays and everything were there, everyone would just be sitting there wondering what to have an argument about. What to shout at. What to curse at from the stands.

"I'm not sure if I'm in favour of goal-line technology or video technology because it's a controversy. It gets people talking on the street. It's the reason that Sky pay so much money and," he adds, with a look to his sponsors for the day and laughs from all present, "that ESPN pays so much money and Chorus/NTL.

"You know, I make my living from football, and you (the media) make your living from football and we need stories like that. We need arguments and issues like that.

"In the short run, it hurts me massively not going to a World Cup. But in the long run, all those people paying money to watch it and all those issues, well, if we didn't have it, then it would make it very boring."

Unsurprisingly, then, Doyle is far from fuming that Henry escaped punishment. He expected that would be the case and, deep down, he knows that if he had committed a similar offence, then the argument would be that there was no precedent for punishment.

Anyway, from every cloud emerges a silver lining. The only plus side of missing out on a World Cup is that it allowed Doyle to bring forward his wedding to long-term girlfriend Jenny Harney by 12 months. They'll get hitched in the first week of June in Limerick.


Stephen Hunt will be there. A few years ago, Doyle introduced his then Reading colleague to his cousin, Joanne, who Hunt has since married. The football careers of the close pals are inextricably linked and they could be reunited again soon with Wolves already having made two bids to cash-strapped Hull for the services of the left winger.

"I have spoken to him a bit, but don't know whether he wants to come or not," said Doyle, with a smile which suggested he knows perfectly well that Hunt would relish the opportunity.

"Not only would he be a very good signing but if we did get him, the fact we would we taking him off a (relegation) rival, it would be a boost."

Indeed, Wolves and Hull are locked together on 19 points, mired in a battle royale to avoid the trapdoor with half the top flight potentially involved.

"We won't be as complacent at Wolves as we were at Reading," he says, recalling two seasons ago when the Royals got sucked into trouble when they didn't expect it. "We've known from the start we've been in a relegation battle."

That's the focus for now although he is conscious that the European Championship draw in Warsaw on February 7 is on the horizon.

With Ireland set to be third seeds, another difficult task is assured but he believes that the confidence derived from the last campaign has significantly raised the bar. He also denies suggestions that the players, rather than Giovanni Trapattoni, demanded the attacking approach taken in Paris.

"It's going to be tough to qualify, maybe we could have been second seeds seeing as we were unbeaten in the group the last time but that's just the way it is," he mused, before moving onto his preferred opponents.

"The top seeds are much of a muchness. I'd like to get England because I've never played them before, so that would be nice."

And France? "It would be nice to get France either. I suppose it would be easy to focus," he grins.

After all, forgiving is one thing. Forgetting is another.

Irish Independent