With 23.5% of the vote in central midfield, Michael Doyle tackles his way into the Coventry City Team of the Decade.
Michael Doyle’s decade began with a loan spell at Leeds United, with a brief spell back before a permanent move to Sheffield United seemingly a last hurrah having been a staple of the side for much of the previous decade.
In the time between his exit and return, the club went from being a stable lower mid-table Championship side to League Two. It had been a period of high player turnover with the squad getting progressively younger and less battle-hardened as they sank down the leagues.
The return of Michael Doyle was a statement move from Mark Robins to change the way we had been doing things and stamp some authority on a young side. At the age of 36, it was anticipated that Doyle’s impact was only likely to last on the opening months of the campaign, to help the team adapt to League Two before shuffling to the side and allowing younger, more dynamic players to take his place.
That assumption proved to be a significant underestimation of Michael Doyle’s sheer bloody-minded determination to keep going.
Doyle had what could be described as almost a shamanic impact upon the team. Somehow willing the team to victory regardless of his, or the team’s, level of performance. There were some small things he did – such as looking to take quick free-kicks or get in the referee’s ear – but his impact felt greater than the sum of his individual actions.
That the worst period of our League Two season came during the only period where Michael Doyle was absent from the side only served to further underline his importance.
The following season, it had once again been expected that Doyle would be eventually phased out, once again, Doyle demonstrated his age-defying staying power. This time, he had almost reinvented himself as a metronomic passing midfielder and set-piece taker, playing a key role during a run of five league wins in a row.
The end for Doyle almost occurred slightly too quickly to be believed. From being the fulcrum of the side one week, to making one or two errors the next, to being removed completely from the side a week later, then, all of a sudden, he was at Notts County. It was perhaps characteristic of Doyle that he preferred playing regular football over accepting a secondary role to allow for a more ceremonious exit.
Having been a player that, more-or-less, defined a previous era of Coventry City to returning to help the club at its lowest ebb, Michael Doyle is perhaps the closest thing the club has had to a bona fide legend in the post-Championship era.