After agreeing to leave Wolves at the end of the season, Richard Hobbs takes a look at Kevin Doyle’s time at Wolves.
Given how much has happened in the past few years at Molineux, it’s easy to forget that Kevin Doyle was our marquee signing in 2009 after promotion to the Premier league. Doyle was a well-regarded striker having scored 13 goals for Reading in their first year in the top flight in 2007. In his last season at the Royals, the Irishman netted 18 goals as they looked to secure promotion along with Wolves. Only three players outscored Doyle that season, including a certain Sylvan Ebanks-Blake who finished with the golden boot.
At 26 years old, he was in his peak playing years and with the rest of the strike force unproven at Premier League level, purchasing Doyle seemed like a shrewd signing and it didn’t feel like a big risk despite signing for a club record £6.5 million.
His time at Wolves didn’t get off to the best of starts after needing a hernia operation which scuppered his pre-season programme. An injury on international duty also meant his missed the start of the season and it wasn’t until the end of August he made his first appearance from Wolves, coming on as a substitute against Manchester City.
For much of our first season back in the Premier League, Doyle operated as a lone striker. Hassling defenders and holding up the ball, Doyle had the intelligence and the work rate to play by himself with other strikers at Mick McCarthy’s disposal looking more suited to playing with another striker alongside them. The Irishman however, looked just as comfortable playing as a lone striker as he did playing alongside the likes of Andy Keogh or Ebanks-Blake.
In a season which saw Wolves stay up with games to spare, Doyle finished the campaign as the club’s top goal scorer as well as being named Player’s player of the year. Winning an award such as this showed the impact his team mates thought he made throughout the year. Though he might not have fire Wolves to Premier League survival the way some expected, but his ability to win the ball against defenders bigger than himself and allow the midfield to join in the attack made him vital to our survival.
The following season Mick McCarthy brought in Steven Fletcher to add more firepower alongside Doyle. The former Cork City striker was often used in rotation with Fletcher as McCarthy looked for a winning formation. Eventually, McCarthy went back to using Doyle as a lone forward in a 4-5-1 formation. Although he only managed to score five goals, Doyle did manage to score the winning goal against Manchester United as well as against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
The next two seasons bought very few bright moments for Wolves and Doyle as they suffered from successive relegation to League 1. Doyle managed four goals in Wolves final year in the Premier League in 33 appearances as Wolves looked bereft of ideas and quality. Following the arrival of the continental Stale Solbakken, Doyle kept his place in the Wolves attack. But with the club in disarray, he could only score nine goals during a campaign which saw Wolves appointed a fourth manager in two years.
On a Premier League wage, new Head Coach Kenny Jackett made Doyle available to leave the club in an attempt to lower the wage bill. No moves materialised for the Irishman in the summer of 2013, but unlike other players in the old regime like Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara, Doyle still maintained his place in the first team. The fact that he managed to get into the first team showed his high levels of professionalism when other might have forced a move or not played.
Although he didn’t scored many goals in League 1, his link up play and intelligence provided a perfect foil for Leigh Griffith and when quality was lacking, Doyle was always on hand to provide a touch of class with a good touch or a cute flick.
In January 2014, QPR signed Doyle on loan until the end of the season as Rangers looked to secure promotion back to the Premier League. While at the London club, he managed to score two goals and appeared in all three of the R’s playoff matches. An injury hindered his loan spell somewhat, requiring him to come back to his parent club for treatment.
At the end of the season, Doyle claimed that at times in League 1 he struggled to motivate himself to the same level as he had in the Premier League seasons. This upset many fans as they now saw Doyle as a player who did not give 100%. Bad performances can be forgotten, but giving your all is one thing fans struggle to move on from.
After an unsuccessful loan spell at Crystal Palace during the first half of this season, Doyle looked set to run out the rest of his contract at Wolves. To the surprise of many, Kenny Jackett has brought back Doyle into his first team plans, 14 months after his last game for the club. For someone who could have easily sat back and done nothing for the last six months of his contract, it stands testament to Doyle’s hard working attitude and desire to play that he is now on the subs bench at Wolves.
The reaction Doyle going on his return as a substitute against Rotherham was somewhat surprising. With many murmuring their displeasure of seeing him in a Wolves shirt after his comments about not being able to motivate himself, Doyle was given a hero’s welcome as he steps onto the Molineux turf.
After ongoing talks with Colorado Rapids, Doyle signed a pre-contract agreement with them MLS side to join then at the end of Wolves season.
A player, who throughout some tough years down Molineux always gave everything, gave 100% no matter what division Wolves were in. He will most likely continue appearing on the bench for Wolves and many will still not forgive him for comments at the end of last season.
Yes, he said something out of line. But who hasn’t said something stupid and probably regretted soon after (on that note, check out the latest Wolves Fancast podcast). For me one poor error should not undo all the good things that he did in a Wolves shirt.
So let’s remember the good times Doyle gave us like his goal the ended Manchester United 29-match unbeaten run or battling with the likes of Terry or Vidic.
Thanks for your time down at Molineux Kevin, all the best in Colorado and hopefully you are as successful as fellow Wolves and Irish expat Robbie Keane Stateside.