Down in the Doyledrums.
He arrived at the start of a new dawn, joining a team that amassed ninety points scoring eighty goals in the process of an outstanding promotion.
Wolves were riding the crest of a wave, they had finished seven points clear of local, and league rivals, Birmingham City and a full ten points above the play-offs. Kevin Doyle joined in 2009 and was seen to be the final £6.5 million jewel in McCarthy’s crown. A tough quick player that was key for Reading in their meteoric rise to 8th in the Premier League in their first season. Doyle was at the vanguard alongside Leroy Lita, it was clear to see why Wolves wanted him. However, in recent months there have been a strong minority who want Doyle for the proverbial chop. Does he score enough? Has he ever scored enough? Many people believe he is faltering at Wolves and maybe his time is up at Molineux.
They do have a point, he left Reading with a record of 66 goals in a 164 appearances, not a stunning record, but, for his current club, he has scored a miserly 26 goals in just 20 less appearances. Furthermore, he scored an average of 16.5 goals per season for the Royals, for Wolves he has scored just 6.5 goals on average, a season. His highest scoring season came in his first year for the club and ever since the tally has ultimately decreased.
Why is this then? Well for a start the system dictated that he would not be scoring 20 goals a season, he was the head of an already defensive 4-5-1 formation, with no real centre attacking midfielder behind him, supporting him and supplying the ammunition, he would never achieve his potential goal scoring targets. Jones, Henry, Edwards, Milijas, and later on Guedioura, would all interchange in a midfield three, good players, but not ones, bar possibly Nenad, that are renowned for there vision or technical ability. So from the outset most were not expecting an Ebanks-Blake amount of goals from him as he was constantly dropping deep and picking the ball up from his own half, and with no one in front of him, Wolves were blunt up front, this was proved by the fact we only scored 32 goals throughout the 09/10 season.
Furthermore, at the start of the second season the club purchased Steven Fletcher, a proven poacher who would surely supply the finish to Doyle’s hard work. Which worked, to some extent, Fletcher and Doyle linked up reasonably well in the two seasons they together. McCarthy loved Doyle, it was a typical signing for Mick really, hardworking, willing to “put in a shift” and was always ready to play in whatever position he was asked to play. It has to be admired, Doyle sacrificed his personal own glory for the sake of the team and that is to be applauded but I cannot help thinking that if he was in a system that suited him, with more technically gifted players behind him, and not three workhorses, then maybe his goal tally would have been higher.
All in all, the minority of fans who are not keen on his style of play have a point. However, there is a flip side to this, as always. To start with Doyle has never scored a lot of goals, his current goal tally stands at 119 in 382, which is not great compared to other Championship strikers such as Charlie Austin, 174 in 269, or even Southampton’s star striker, Rickie Lambert, who spent a lot of time in the lower leagues, scored 215 in 567. If we put him up against other Championship strikers, he does not compare. Doyle has never been a poacher who was born offside. He picks the ball up from deep and drives at defenders, puts them on the back foot and pushes them back towards their own 6-yard box.
So, if he has never been a massive goal scorer, why do fans think his time is up? Is it a more collective groan at the clubs current relegation battle in the Championship, it is easy to understand why that might be the case. Wolves are on a slippery slope that most people believe will end with us playing the likes of Carlisle, Crawley and Crewe next season, (frightening isn’t it?), Doyle is a striker and logic dictates, that he should be contributing to the teams firepower, whereas, he is not that sort of player.
His best position is just behind the striker. Unfortunately, the formation and team is constantly changing, whilst Dean is trying to find the formula to get his first win, so there is no chance to strike up a partnership with a play who is going to have the shirt for 7 or 8 games. Arguably, this is when he has played best, when someone else is putting the ball in the back of the net, taking the pressure of him and letting him play his own game. Furthermore, Doyle sacrificed a lot in Wolves’ first season in the Premier League, even though he finished with 9 goals and was top scorer. I can not help feeling that in a system that suited him he would have found the net a few more times. It is a measure of his character that under McCarthy he would have walked on water.
Finally, Kevin Doyle has not been “ruined” by the club, the circumstances that the club are in currently. That plus we only have 3 other strikers who cannot be relied on for 15 plus goals a season, have hindered his own game, which is awful to see. It is sad that his hard work and effort that he puts in every game does not get recognised, could we argue that forwards like him are becoming less and less. Strikers are not well known for their endeavour or hard work, two of Doyle’s biggest attributes
He is a loyal guy, who could have moved but decided to stick with Wolves, interest from Everton and Celtic, towards the end of the January, could have seen Doyle leave, but he decided to stick with the club and help us through this unforeseen relegation battle, maybe he feels a sense of responsibility, who knows? What we do know is that he is 29 years of age now, in his peak, arguably. Would Wolves fans begrudge him a move to another club, for a few years and see if he could do it in the Premier League or for the top team in Scotland. I would certainly like to see him revive his arguably stale career at a new club, with a new challenge, a new set of goals (pardon the pun). I think we would all like to see him back to his brilliant best.
Big props to @mitcheyboy2010 for the excellent title for this article.