If there ever was a footballer whose blood ran blue it was Mike Doyle. The Manchester born defender was idolized by the fans for his tough combatant play, and his hatred against United. Along with Tommy Booth he played in more cup finals for the Blues than any other player, and he was an important member of the team that swept all before them during the Mercer/Allison era. He made more than 500 appearances for the Blues and scored 40 goals from his defensive position.
Mike Doyle was the son of a policeman, and while this may have given him some rough treatment from the kids on the block he was surely not the one to be pushed-around. When his father learned of his problems with the kids in the streets he took his son to the Police gym and started to give him lessons in self defense. Needless to say this was to prove helpful later in his career.
As a kid Doyle had put pen to paper and wrote to his local paper telling about his dream of becoming a professional football player. This note was picked up by Manchester City Chief Scout; Harry Godwin, who later witnessed that very same boy impress in a game for the Stockport Boys, and when he realized the connection Godwin was quick to ensure that the young man was signed by City. Both Wolverhampton and Stoke had been monitoring young Doyley, and Stoke even offered a washing machine to the household if they could get his signature. But the father, Tommy, was not so impressed, and being a true blue he was the one holding the breaks until Godwin showed up at the door.
Doyle signed for City as an apprentice in 1964, together with a couple of the other lads from his Stockport Boys outfit. In the beginning they were doing groundstaff work, clearing the pitch and making the training gear ready. He also was selected to clean Bert Trautmann's boots and on one occasion, after City had lost 8-1 against Wolverhampton, Doyle asked Bert in a cocky way how his back was after the weekend. No wonder Bert exploded against the young rookie lifting him up against the wall by the collar telling him to shove his mouth where the sun doesn't shine. You just didn't f**k around with Bertie that way, and Doyle was assigned to wash the German legends car for the rest of the summer.
One of the City staff that had the most influence on Doyle's development during his first years was Johnny Hart. The former City player was now Coach at Maine Road, and became a father figure to young Doyley. Hart used to take Doyle aside after training and reserve games and give the youngster some advice. He also encouraged Doyle to use his passion for the game, and not always play by the book. That was something Doyle seemed to have taken notice of when he became a regular in the City side.
March 12th 1965 at the ripe age of 18, Doyle made his debut for City in a draw against Cardiff, although he almost missed the plane due to bus-strike. This was not the first time Doyle was not on friendly terms with the Union, as another bus-strike ruined his Testimonial match, giving only 10,000 the opportunity to pay their respect to the loyal servant.
Right from his debut it became apparent that the local lad was going
to break his way into the team, and together with other youngsters like
Neil Young, Glyn Pardoe and Colin Bell he formed the new generation of
players taking over at Maine Road.
He was on friendly terms with many of the United-players during the 60ies, but after being slammed in the press by George Best, he started his own whacking campaign of the reds. This spun off what was to become a war between Doyle and the red half of Manchester, resulting in broken car windows, nasty letters and even death threats. Doyle was not the one to back down neither on the pitch or outside it, and his hatred for United as an institution grew, while he still remained friendly with many of the players. He was even instrumental in bringing former red Brian Kidd to the club, luring him from Arsenal in 1976.
One of Doyles greatest moments came during the 1976 League Cup victory at Wembley. By this time Doyle was made Captain by Manager Tony Book, and during a corner the team made a pre-arranged move that saw Doyle collect the ball at the far post. His header found Peter Barnes who scored the opening goal. Of course most people only remember the fantastic overhead kick by Dennis Tueart that settled the victory, but the move was not gone unnoticed by England Manager Don Revie. All in all Doyle was picked to represent England on five occasions.
In June 1978 his days at City were finally over, and when Stoke City made an offer for the third time in his career he decided to go. That also marked the start of the downfall of the great team, as one year later Malcolm Allison returned to cut the roots off what had been built during the 60ies and 70ies and send City tumbling into the dark ages.
Doyle stayed with Stoke for a couple of seasons, but in January 1982 he was picked up by Bolton Wanderers where he was given the task to organize the defence. In the team were a future City-player and Manager; Peter Reid. The next season saw Doyle out with injuries both to his ligament and cartilage. He quit Bolton and for a short while he was associated with Rochdale before hanging up his boots for good.
After being rejected as Manager to Oldham Athletics he started a job in insurance selling pensions to football players, which made up a good living for a while, but after a business adventure in Lanzarote went sour he and his insurance-partner split up, and for many years Doyle worked as a salesman for Atlas Trading, and later Slazenger, traveling up an down the country. He also practiced his golf and kept himself fit walking the dogs until his knees no longer could support the training. This led to all kinds of problems for the exercise minded 50-year old. After a period of heavy drinking, and domestic problems that almost cost him his marriage, he is now reunited with his wife Cheryl, and has good contact with his kids Stephanie and Scott.
More information about Mike Doyle, his life and career, is to be found
in his book: "Blue blood - The Mike Doyle story" by Mike Doyle
and David Clayton.