Number One is Kevin Doyle… Number Two is Kevin Doyle…
We all dream of a team of Kevin Doyles, a team of Kevin Doyles, a team of Kevin Doyles..!
It takes something special to have a chant in your own name at Reading Football Club, lord knows we don’t do it often enough. Over the years, Royals supporters have dreamt up numerous ways of adorning their heroes; from Fiiive Paaarkinsons to Shaun Cummings (all over your face), and it was a testament to Doyle’s style and tenacity that we believed he could do a job in every position.
And we really believed it. I still do. However the blond Manchester United fan from South East Ireland has decided to hang up his boots, on medical grounds, following a worrying period of head injuries.
How typical it is, that a player not known for his height or physical stature, who threw his head and body any which direction it was required to go, would have his career ended by such a problem. Doyle’s retirement through head trauma is akin to the bears having to call it a day due to tree bark-related bowel exhaustion.
In sum, it’s the reason we loved Doyle so much. Coming over from Ireland with his squeaky little mate in exchange for football’s equivalent of half a bag of Skips, the pair of them contrived to set a new standard for the meaning of the word ‘bargain’. He rushed defences, barged past markers, ran like stink, and most importantly, hit the back of the net more times than any of us can care to remember.
Most of Doyle’s goals came via his head, including the one which sent Reading to the Premier League for the first time in its history, but he was nifty with his feet too, scoring a number of long-range crackers for club and country.
Some particular favourites of mine include his penalty as we took points off a stunned Manchester United in 2006/07, a late double as the Royals snatched a 3-1 victory in the final 10 minutes at Bolton in the same season, and a match-winning flicked header at promotion rivals Birmingham in 08/09. No doubt we all have our favourites.
Doyle’s goal celebration, the simple stand-on-the-advertising-hoardings-arms-outstretched will also always stick with me, as will the times I felt he was harshly thrown onto the right flank in our doomed 2007/08 campaign. That year, the forward was returning from a hamstring injury and he arguably never found the same form after that. Although strong glimpses, such as his powerful run to set up Shane Long for a goal at home to Manchester City (2:40 below), would remain before his departure.
In announcing his retirement, Doyle has also notched another note of disappointment in that the 106 team is slowly becoming extinct. Only Steve Sidwell, Long and third-choice keeper Adam Federici remain near the top level of football. These moments remind me of how football was under Steve Coppell, and its blood brother, the team of Brian McDermott’s first spell in charge.
How we’d turn up and watch a team of underdogs and nowhere men launch into the stratosphere, play without fear and with bundles of tempo. How we’d regularly stick four or five past our opponents, it not mattering whether they were West Ham, Derby or Brighton. How we’d have an off day, shrug our shoulders and return to form the next week with our mind on the win above all regard to style or playing football ‘the right way’. How, most importantly, we’d turn up every week and watch the most successful Reading team in club history.
How we could do with a team of Kevin Doyles now.