R.I.P. Mike Doyle, wearing the celestial captain's armband.
"What bugs me about them is the air of supremacy that surrounds Manchester United. My personal feeling is that United's fans are not ready to admit their once great side is past its peak. Quite honestly they have had their day and it is time to realise that it is City who are taking over as number 1". Mike Doyle, ........ 1971 (!!)
Mike Doyle, who left the great mortal football pitch today, was the archetypal Blue: biased, cheeky, energetic, red-averse to the nth degree, tough as teak, assertive and head strong. He was also obviously a man well ahead of his time.
HAND IN HAND WITH BUSBY
In the early seventies, at the height of the searing rivalry between City and United in the steamy football and cultural hotpot that was post industrial Manchester, Colin Bell decided to open a restaurant with his mate, the Burnley defender Colin Waldron. As footballers are wont, they let their imaginations roam a little before naming the dining house "The Bell-Waldron". The story goes that, on opening night, an array of City and Burnley footballers were present to support their team-mates' new business venture, Doyle amongst them. Some of Manchester sport's great and good had also been invited to take part and a special surprise was set up for Mike Doyle. The died-in-the-wool Blue, who hated anything to do with Manchester United, was lined up to give a hand to the incoming dignitaries, the first of which was United manager Matt Busby. It took him the best part of the season to rid himself of the ribbing he took from all gathered that night. For just an instant he had been hand in hand with the enemy.
Doyle's loathing of United was far from tongue-in-cheek. In an age where you could get away with speaking your mind, he really detested our red cousins and did not mind who knew about it. This didn't mean he avoided the other half when seeking beer companions, however. "United are a team of the past. City the force of the future. My fierce feelings of pride for City and my outlook on United does not encroach on players at Old Trafford where Brian Kidd is a good friend of mine..." Doyle often socialised with players from Old Trafford, as did many of City's staff in those days, and would later play in the same City side as Kidd in 1977 when City came within a point of beating Liverpool to the league Championship.
LIVING WITH THE BEST OF THEM
Although Brian Kidd turned into a bar-room buddy, it is Doyle's relationship with George Best that is most poignant from this time. Best was the maverick genius in a faltering United side, as Doyle's City imperiously began building their own great dynasty. Here was the one player at Old Trafford who really received Doyle's respect in large slices. The tussles between the two became legendary, as Best twisted and turned, Doyle's dogged chasing would set up many a derby day victory throughout this golden period for the Blues. Strong in the tackle and upright in stance, the Blue shirted Doyle would track United's dangerman from one side of the pitch to the other. When he was done nullifying the threat, he would often be seen in the opposition penalty area causing his own brand of havoc.
It was not only Doyle's Blue family that set him on the inevitable path to Moss Side. As a youngster in the well honed Stockport Boys set-up, he was frequently taken under the tutelage of a man called Charlie Gee, who Doyle knew as a helpful and willing teacher, always available with a word of advice and a consoling arm around the shoulder. What he didn't know was that the jovial Gee was a scout in Manchester City's employment and, within a few months, Doyle was turning out for his first game for City's A team, at the tender age of 15.
Legendary youth trainer and scout Harry Goodwin remembered the name of Doyle after the initial contact at Stockport too. He discovered a note in his files back at Maine Road from a schoolboy, Michael Doyle, of Reddish, asking for a trial. On visiting Doyle's house, he found a home that reeked heavily of support for Manchester City. Posters, mementoes and souvenirs littered the place. "I knew after our first chat there was only one place their son wanted to play," said Goodwin in later years.
By the time Joe Mercer was appointed to the manager's post at Maine Road, Doyle had made a steady debut in a 2-2 draw at Cardiff and was becoming established around the first team squad. Happy that a big name like Mercer should be taking charge, Doyle and his team-mates were left less impressed by his new assistant, a relatively unknown chap from Plymouth called Malcolm Allison.This was quickly to change.
"I first recall Malcolm on the day we reported for pre-season training at our training ground. We were all messing around a bit when suddenly this giant-like figure emerged to roar at us to form two lines and play the ball to each other. Then the balloon went up. he screamed and shouted at us that we were all a bunch of lazy bastards. Needless to say we all quickly got the message. There was no looking back. we bought into Malcolm's training and fitness regimes. Allison helped to mould my career."
|A LASTING IMAGE|
It was certainly a career that was beginning to blossom. As City hit the glory trail, Doyle could be found in the mix. His biggest thrill, according to an interview given in the 70s, was the 3-1 victory at Old Trafford the season City finally lifted the League crown. He saw that as a turning point in the Manchester clubs' respective fortunes. Sadly for City, it was a false dawn and Doyle became the last captain of City, until Carlos Tevez achieved the feat last May, to lift a pot whilst playing for the Blues. He had become a centre-half by now, combining to form a rock-like rearguard with the imposing Dave Watson. At their peak, between 76 and 78, the Watson-Doyle axis was one of the very best pairings in league football. The massive high-leaping Watson and the bolt upright scimitar tackling Doyle were so good that Don Revie paired them for England on several occasions around this time.
Doyle played 551times for his beloved Manchester City, a massive sacrifice to the club he adored. He shares with Tommy Booth the accolade of playing in the most City cup finals and is perhaps one of the strongest candidates for the title of Mr Manchester City there has ever been. Doyle bridged the gap between the incredible Mercer-Allison years and the second great City side of the 70s, put together by his old team-mate Tony Book. He was there for the first triumph v Leicester and was still there, as captain, for the 76 League Cup triumph over Newcastle. He played on after leaving City for another 6 years, giving great service to Stoke (where he was player of the year in 79), Bolton and Rochdale. His big-hearted steadfastness and always-blue-tinted determination to drive City to the heights marked him down as an incredible leader of men. For Mike Doyle was blue through and through.
"To be chosen for one's country is just the biggest accolade that can be handed to a player, but I would still perhaps prefer to be in the Manchester City side that will one day lift the Champions Cup. For this is where my heart is...Maine Road."
|DOYLE, STILL UNWILLING TO LOOSEN HIS GRIP ON THE TROPHY, POSES FOR PHOTOS, WEMBLEY 1976|