It was destined to be a tug-of-war between Arsenal and Juventus. The year was 2011 and these two great European sides were apparently fighting over the chance to sign the Irish striker, Kevin Doyle. Wenger was a big of fan of the Wolves front-man. “He is generous, intelligent, has good skill and technique and likes to bring other players in [to the game],” the Gunners coach said at the time. Fast forward five years and Doyle has dropped somewhat off the footballing map. However, his decision to leave Europe for pastures new has started to pay dividends.
A LEAGUE OF IRELAND STAR
The FAI has just announced new youth development plans. Their idea is to hold on to players longer, instead of constantly shipping 14 and 15-year-olds off to England. Kevin Doyle is a great example of a player who learned his craft in the League of Ireland before signing for an English club. 10 appearances for St Pat’s was followed by a very successful two-year stint with Cork City. 25 league goals in 76 goals for the Rebel Army, plus some impressive Intertoto Cup performances, led to a £78,000 move to Reading in 2005.
At the time, Reading were an established Championship club and although Doyle was initially signed as a long-term prospect, injuries to other players gave him a run in the side. Doyle’s 18 league goals in his first season contributed greatly contributed to Reading’s promotion to the Premier League. Supporters of the Royals loved the lad from Adamstown and voted him their player of the season. In 12 short months, Doyle had gone from turning out at the Carlisle Grounds to face Bray Wanderers, to dreaming of facing United at Old Trafford.
Reading competed admirably in their first season in the Premier League. Doyle contributed 13 goals during the campaign. His rapid progression also led to a first cap for Ireland, and soon his first goal against San Marino. ‘Second season syndrome’ impacted Reading and Doyle badly. A paltry 6 league goals in 36 games was his final tally as the club were relegated. On the international scene, Doyle was still thriving, though. A highlight of a difficult season was this strike against Slovakia.
There were plenty of clubs linked to Doyle after Reading’s relegation, but the Irishman ended up staying. Hitting top form in the Championship once again, Doyle scored 18 league goals in 41 games. Reading couldn’t bounce back to the top flight however, losing out to Burnley in the play-offs. Mick McCarthy was about to come calling.
Kevin Doyle became Wolves’ record signing in the summer of 2009. The price tag of 6.5 million put pressure on him to hit the ground running. Doyle did win plaudits for his overall play and was the club’s top scorer at the end of the season. However, his final tally of 9 goals didn’t break any records. Wolves finished 15th and would struggle for all of their three seasons in the Premier League. While his game to goal ratio had dropped from around 1:3 to 1:5, Doyle was still gaining admirers. Critics expected more goals would be guaranteed once a major club came calling. Unfortunately, that transfer would never materialise.
When Wolves were relegated in 2012, Doyle was expected to leave. At 28, he was meant to be entering his prime years. However, no agreement was reached with another club and Doyle started life once again in the second tier of English football. Unlike his last season in the Championship, Doyle would only find the net 9 times in 42 games. A disastrous season for Wolves would end in another relegation. Suddenly Doyle found himself in League One. Rumours of a transfer to Arsenal seemed a million miles away.
Kenny Jackett, the Wolves boss, expected Doyle to depart before the season began. His wage bill alone was causing consternation in the boardroom. “In terms of Kevin, his wages are too high for League One for where we are,” said Jackett.“That’s common knowledge and between now and the end of the window there will be interest in him.” Wolves couldn’t sell the Irish striker and Doyle ended up having another mediocre season, scoring 3 league goals in 23 games. A January loan move to Championship side, QPR, wouldn’t lead to a resurgance as he only made 9 appearances, netting twice.
His international career had also petered out at this stage. Wolves had managed to win promotion during his absence. Unwanted by the club, a loan spell was arranged in the summer of 2014 to Premier League side, Crystal Palace. 3 substitute appearances in 5 months tells its own story. Doyle would make 6 appearances when he returned to Molineaux in January, before he finally managed to break his Wolves curse and leave the club. His destination? Colorado Rapids.
THE SLOW STARTING AMERICAN DREAM
In his first season, Colorado Rapids decided to make Doyle feel at home by paying homage to Wolves’ final Premier League campaign. Finishing rock bottom of the Western Conference must have got Doyle thinking that he was actually cursed. However, the 2016 season was a revelation as the Rapids finished 2nd in the Conference. Doyle scored more frequently and this diving header made the headlines back home. The Rapids would lose out to the eventual winners, Seattle Sounders, in the semi-finals, with Doyle netting in the first leg. After a slow start, the ex-Wolves man has settled in well to life in the States.
Doyle hasn’t pulled on a green jersey for more than a year. While Robbie Keane was able to combine playing in the MLS with playing for Ireland, Doyle hasn’t been selected for some time. Only last week, he refused to consider announcing his international retirement. Playing in America does hinder his chances, but Doyle hasn’t given up:
” I’ve lots of caps for Ireland and I’d love to get a few more. While I’m a professional, I’ll keep myself available for selection.”
Could Doyle still do a job for Ireland? Outside of Shane Long, there is a lack of quality strikers available. An injury to the Southampton striker would be a catastrophe. Would an experienced and rejuvenated Doyle be able to shine once again in green? Let us know what you think in the poll below.