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Reading FC's 106 Point Team - Whatever Happened To...Kevin Doyle

To kick-start our journey looking at what happened next to Reading's 106 point team from 2005/06, we start with the most unlikely of heroes...

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

You can read my thoughts behind the series in our introduction piece here. So why start a series on the 2005/06 Reading squad with Kevin Doyle? That's a good question. I was going to run through the players by squad number, but that's a bit clichéd. I was going to do it in order of appearances, but I wanted to get to Brynjar Gunnarsson sooner than that. And I couldn't really go in alphabetical order, because I still don't really know how I'll be able to fill 500 words on Sekou Beradji.

So I figured that I'll go through the squad at random. It'll build the suspense. It's Doyle this week, but who's going to feature next time? I imagine you won't be able to get anything else done until you find out.

Who was he and where'd he come from?

I picked Doyle first because to me he best sums up the 2005/06 season. Not a great deal was expected from him. Sure, upon signing him in June 2005 we were told some good things from Cork City fans, but really, how much of a difference would a guy signed for £70,000 from the League of Ireland make?

When it came to new strikers, we were all a bit more excited about the £1 million we'd paid for an England under-21 player called Leroy Lita. But we'll get to him later.

Yet Doyle proved more than just a nice surprise. He very quickly became a fans' favourite. Strong, direct, good at dribbling and holding up the ball, but also with a half decent turn of pace and an eye for goal.

Yet Doyle proved more than just a nice surprise. He very quickly became a fans' favourite.

Doyle got his chance perhaps a little earlier than we all expected. We'd anticipated him to be the wild card option, maybe someone to throw on from the bench when you needed something a little different.

And indeed, he was behind Lita and Kitson in the pecking order in August - usually an unused sub or coming on for the last half hour. But by mid-September the outlook was very different.

In the first half of a home game against Burnley, Kitson limped off with an injury (sadly an all too regular occurrence). Doyle came on to replace him and was his usual bright, buzzy self. He scored the winner, and retained his place in the side for the following week's trip to Coventry.

We drew 1-1 at the Ricoh, and it was Doyle who scored the Reading goal. The following Tuesday, against Crystal Palace, he was on the scoresheet again.

That Palace match - as well as being possibly the most exciting game ever seen at the Madejski - was when you really felt we had a special player on our hands. Doyle led the line like an experienced Championship striker. He was a focal point in a fast paced attack, bringing others in to play and scaring the opposition defence with a series of dangerous runs and a refusal to be bullied.

And his goal typified all that was good about the player. Picking the ball up deep, he turned on a sixpence, got his head down and ran at the Palace back four. His strength held off any challenges, and his early shot from the edge of the box - though lacking in any real pace - was so accurate that the keeper couldn't get to it. Delightful.

His 2005/06 Golden Moment

Doyle went on to score 19 goals for Reading that season. And although the Palace strike was the one that best summed him up, his iconic moment of 2005/06 was undoubtedly his header away at Leicester.

Contrary to what many believe, it wasn't the goal that took us up. Results elsewhere meant we were promoted that day even if we'd suffered defeat. But with a highly charged away end and Reading 1-0 down with less than 10 minutes to go, Doyle nodding home sent us in to raptures. His knee-slide celebration in front of our fans is an image that endures whenever you think of that day - a day that will surely always be the greatest in Reading's history.

What happened next?

I could write a whole essay on Doyle's contribution to Reading FC. Indeed, in the 2005/06 season alone I've still not mentioned his spectacular acrobatic goal against Hull City, his ability to pop up with goals at such vital times, like the immediate response he gave us when we went 1-0 down away at Derby County on New Year's Eve, or the goals at Ipswich and Plymouth when we really had to dig in in November. Even when we finally succumbed to defeat in February to Luton, Doyle bagged a brace. He ended the season as Reading's official player of the season, the Championship Fan's player of the year, and in the PFA's Championship team of the year.

The following season, in the Premier League, Doyle was arguably even better. There was the penalty that earned us a draw against Manchester United, the double away at Bolton, and one of the top flight's quickest ever goals as we won 2-1 at Sheffield United. He was also the key man in perhaps two of Reading's finest ever wins - scoring twice in the 6-0 mauling of West Ham, and in the 3-1 win over Liverpool the following season.

Having now established himself as a genuinely quality player, it was no surprise when Doyle was snapped up when Reading failed to win promotion.

Having now established himself as a genuinely quality player - and one with international caps to boot - it was no surprise when Doyle was snapped up when Reading failed to win promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt. We could bear no grudges - here was a guy who clearly treasured Reading's contribution to his career as much as we treasured the impact he'd had on the club. And he had given us a season back in the second tier, scoring 18 times as he tried valiantly to lead us back to the top flight.

The move he made was a little disappointing though (and this may be a theme that comes up a few times in this series). Wolves had just won promotion back to the Premier League, but you always sensed that Doyle could have found a home at a club more comfortably positioned in the league. Instead he was forced to play the lone striker role in a team battling relegation - and did so pretty well as the club finished 15th in a season of twists and turns. He'd go on to be top scorer and be named player of the year.

But that was about as good as it got for the Irishman at Wolves. Steven Fletcher arrived soon after and although Doyle still got his fair share of game time and goals, his potential was rarely fulfilled. Indeed he was part of the squad that then suffered consecutive relegations, and manager Kenny Jackett tried to move him on to free up the wage bill.

No firm offers were forthcoming. It was 2015 before Doyle left Molineux permanently. Prior to departure he'd spend his last year at the club out on loan, first at Loftus Road - where he scored (and celebrated, to some fan's annoyance) against Reading - and then at Crystal Palace, where he only made three appearances.

Where's he now?

Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Denver. Eyebrows were raised in March last year when it was announced that the Colorado Rapids had signed Doyle to a two and a half year contract. The usual perception of any player moving to the MLS is that their career is winding down, and although Doyle's has almost certainly peaked, you wouldn't put him in the ‘over the hill' category just yet.

And perhaps the move has given him a new lease of life. He announced his arrival with a peach of a goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps, and scored four more times as the MLS season drew to a close (it was already in full swing by the time Doyle joined).

He's become something of a leader in the Colorado team, with some fans calling for him to be made captain

This season he's started well too, and has become something of a leader in the Colorado team, with some fans calling for him to be made captain. Indeed, Doyle himself has admitted that he's well aware that he's now one of the club's oldest players, and needs to be more vocal in the dressing room.

Pleasingly, Doyle's MLS move hasn't completely ruled him out of international contention. And he was still around the Republic of Ireland squad that qualified for Euro 2016. He's very much behind the likes of Robbie Keane, Jonathan Walters and a certain Shane Long in Martin O'Neill's thoughts though.

Ah, Shane Long. We'll get on to him in another column. But we can't finish an entire article on Kevin Doyle without mentioning the other part of the Cork City package deal. Arguments still go on over who was better - Doyle or Long. And I'm certainly not going to get into that debate now.

But whilst both proved bargains in the long run, there's no doubt who was more influential in the biggest season in our history. Kevin Doyle - the man who not only exceeded expectations, but became a Reading legen