Mike Doyle: Captain with blue blood
- 28 June 2011 11:03
- Posted by David Clayton
Mike Doyle once claimed there were only two teams in Manchester – Manchester City and Manchester City reserves – and that pretty much sums up the Blues’ most decorated player.
Doyle was incapable of giving less than 100 per cent on the pitch and believed he should play as the City supporters would if they were given a chance to play for the club they loved.
He was tough and uncompromising on the pitch and he lived life to the full off it. He was also famed for his dislike of Manchester United and before the Manchester derbies of the 1960s and 70s, journalists would approach Doyle for a comment that would invariably stir things up - but the City fans loved him for it!
Mike called a spade a spade, and if people didn’t like what he had to say, tough luck, he’d say it anyway.
He joined City in 1962 as an apprentice when scout Harry Godwin visited his home in Reddish after hearing several clubs were on his trail. Apparently, Godwin said he knew he had a good chance of signing the Stockport Boys half-back when he saw his father’s police helmet on the dining room table with a City programme next to it!
Mike soon made an impression at Maine Road, once asking Bert Trautmann if his back was OK after conceding eight goals against Wolves. Trautmann wasn’t impressed and told the lippy youngster what he’d do if he showed a lack of respect again.
He ended up washing Bert’s VW Beetle every week for the next few months
An important lesson learned, Doyle buckled down and made his first-team debut at Cardiff City in March 1964. Welsh legend John Charles gave the skinny 17-year-old something of a pummelling, though he held his own in a 2-2 draw.
Joe Mercer was quick to spot his potential when he took over as manager the following year and Doyle played 19 League games, scoring seven goals after playing several matches as an emergency striker and bagging six goals in four games!
It wasn’t until the 1967/68 campaign that Doyle was finally handed the No.4 jersey for keeps and he formed part of the backbone of the side that won the title that season, playing 40 of the 42 League games.
As the years went on, he liked nothing more than to wind United fans up, once claiming he loved playing the Reds because it was “four easy points” (it was just two points for a win back then). He even claimed he was “gutted” when United were relegated in 1974 – but only because it was the loss of two guaranteed victories!
Doyle seemed to dig even deeper when City played United and was on the losing side just once in the 16 derbies he played in between March 1968 and September 1975.
His form at club level was such that he was included in the provisional squad for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, but when his wife Cheryl fell ill, he stayed by her bedside and informed England he wasn’t available for selection.
After adding winner’s medals for the 1969 FA Cup and 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup, Doyle continued to be a permanent fixture in the City starting XI, gradually moving to centre-half from his usual half-back role.
He finally won the first of his five England caps in 1975 and the arrival of Dave Watson saw Doyle forge a superb defensive partnership that became the scourge of strikers throughout the land.
Doyle was also handed the captain’s armband in ’75 for the first time and he celebrated his first year as skipper by lifting the League Cup in February 1976 with a 2-1 win over Newcastle.
Doyle almost captained City to the title the following year, too, missing out by a single point to Liverpool, though a persistent knee injury meant it was also the beginning of the end of his City career.
He managed just 13 starts during the 1977/78 season before calling time on his 16-year association with the Blues by joining Stoke in June 1978 for a fee of £50,000.
He’d made 558 appearances and scored 40 goals – he was, and still is, City’s most decorated player
After his retirement he took up golf for a while and loved nothing more than walking his dogs near his North Manchester home. He published his autobiography ‘Blue Blood’ in 2004 and this writer was lucky enough to assist him on the project.
Mike had battled failing health for the past 12 months before hanging his boots up for the last time on June 27, surrounded by his family. He leaves behind his wife Cheryl, sons Scott and Grant and daughters Stephanie and Natalie. He’ll be sadly missed by City fans everywhere.