The only way is up for Doyle


SOCCER:FOR THOSE who’ve been asking, Kevin Doyle hasn’t gone anywhere. His profile has been lower this year, and if he decides to remain at Wolves it could sink further, but he’s not hiding and – as is the case with a few others – the next few weeks are his chance to put things right.

Doyle was relegated from the Premier League for the second time in his career some weeks ago, adding a demotion with Wolves to the pain he felt when Reading went down in 2008.

The Wexford man saw this one coming, he was just powerless to stop it. It had that car crash feel to it. It all appeared to be happening in slow motion and then it ended with a thud. Now, it’s nice to be somewhere else.

“I would say this is refreshing,” admitted Doyle yesterday. “I had a week off at home to see the family, which was nice. Now the weather is nice, the pitch is lovely, we have new footballs . . . little things. It’s nice to be in a different environment.

“ has not been a shock. We’ve had six weeks to get over it. And in the final weeks it had been inevitable. Not like at Reading, where I had to join up with the Irish squad just after we got relegated. That was tough. That was the worst I’ve felt, I’d say, because that was a shock to the system. This time, we’ve had three years being in and out of the bottom three.”

The Republic of Ireland striker spoke a little like he’d been worn down by it all. Three years is a long time to be fighting the same fight but he’s not ducking the criticism, and is grateful he, Stephen Ward, Stephen Hunt and Kevin Foley still have a chance to end the season on a bit of a high.

“Not one of my best” is how he sums up a season in which he scored four in 26 starts. “Probably didn’t enjoy it from start to finish. It wasn’t great for anyone. I’m glad it’s over and I’m glad this is coming up. It was tough for everyone to get through the last few weeks of the season but at least the four of us had this to keep ourselves fit and train right and stay motivated.”

The good news for Ireland is he has retained his “inner confidence” and will defend his record from the critics and fight for his place in the starting XI against Croatia in Poznan on June 10th.

“Everyone has their opinion. My goal-scoring this year wasn’t good but in the Premier League I’ve always played with teams who are one of the favourites to be relegated. I’ve been top scorer in those teams the majority of the seasons I’ve been there. One of the top scorers in the Championship the two seasons I’ve been there.”

Even so, the perception is the 28-year-old is under threat, not least from his old friend and room-mate Shane Long, whose eight goals at West Brom only tell a fraction of the story of how their respective seasons differed.

“Any of them,” he says, referring to the trio of alternative striking options available to Giovanni Trapattoni. “You could say the same about Jonathan Walters. They will all want to play just like I want to play – it has never been any different. I wouldn’t call it a threat, it’s just that we both want to play. If I don’t play I don’t look at him and think ‘God, that f***er’. That’s the way it is and I’m sure it’s vice versa. We have some decent options up front. Simon Cox has done very well when he has played for Ireland.

“I feel fit and sharp in training which is nice. The end of the season, I have been working hard the last few months to make sure I am in good shape for this, so I’m sure whatever he is thinking he will want to see us training and that will make his mind up. I won’t be doing anything different to try and persuade him to play me. Whatever I’ve been doing in training the last few years seems to have worked.”

Talking himself up, doesn’t come naturally to Doyle, and he insists he’d think twice about leaving Wolves for another relegation scrap in the top flight. But he’d welcome a few options this summer, even one from abroad if he does himself some favours in Poland.

“We’ve just been relegated and you want to give yourself a boost, personally. And playing well and showing what you can do on a stage like that, it can only be good for your career for giving yourself opportunities in the future, certainly. I’d never have any issues playing abroad, I don’t see why if you had the opportunity you wouldn’t take it. There are so many people come to England to play football and it seems to do them good, I don’t think you should not want to go.”

That will all sort itself out if things go to plan against Croatia, Spain and Italy and hopefully beyond. Next month doesn’t just mean putting right a club season, it’s about easing a decade of heartache on the international stage, as well. “We’ve been in the doldrums as a footballing country for 10 years. We’ve had a lot of bad moments along the way. Since I’ve been in the squad we’ve taken a lot of stick – rightly at times – and this is a chance to experience the other side of it.”