Mike Doyle: Combative and talented footballer at the heart of the great Manchester City side of the 1960s and '70s

It's not easy to imagine a footballer being more passionate about a club than Mike Doyle was about his beloved Manchester City. The fiercely loyal, jaggedly combative Mancunian, who contributed mightily during the most successful interlude in the Blues' history to date – under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison in the late 1960s, then on into the following decade – was warrior, talisman and richly accomplished all-round performer rolled into one.

Yet even that collection of compelling attributes did not encompass the full extent of Doyle's appeal to the Maine Road faithful. As a bonus to City fans infuriated by the perceived superiority complex of their illustrious neighbours, he hated Manchester United with a vengeance. Better still in the eyes of his admirers, he was always ready to trumpet that loathing of the Old Trafford institution, a mindset which was entirely genuine and stretched back to childhood.

When Doyle was in his prime, no build-up to a local derby was complete without a rash of inflammatory outpourings from the vituperative City loyalist. However, it would be shameful if Doyle's reputation as a rabid United-baiter was allowed to obscure his considerable talent as a player. Whether operating in midfield or, later in his career, as a central defender, he wielded immense influence. There was courage and commitment aplenty – he was once voted City's hardest-ever footballer in a supporters' poll – but there was skill, audacity and remarkable consistency, too.

Doyle was a central figure as the Blues won the League title in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969 and the European Cup-Winners' Cup and League Cup in 1970, then he skippered the side which lifted the League Cup again in 1976. It was a time of glittering achievement, often referred to as the Lee, Bell and Summerbee era in tribute to the team's extravagantly gifted attacking trio, but the work of cult hero Doyle and other doughty bulwarks such as Tony Book and Alan Oakes should never be underestimated.

Doyle, a policeman's son who was taught unarmed combat as a youngster so that he could look after himself in a tough city, was determined to become a professional footballer. When he was nine he outlined his ambition in a letter to the Manchester Evening News, an earnest declaration of intent which was tucked away in the filing system of City's chief scout, Harry Godwin. A few years later, after Doyle had impressed as a defender for Stockport Boys, Godwin dug out the cutting, found his target's address and soon, in May 1962, the young City fanatic joined the Blues' groundstaff.

At Maine Road the tall, slim but physically resilient rookie made rapid strides, but there was no disguising an emotional, even confrontational side to a personality which had been rendered even more prickly by enduring taunts from crowing United fans for as long as he could remember.

He was confident, too, as illustrated by an incident involving City's talismanic goalkeeper Bert Trautmann which has passed into club folklore. The giant German had just conceded eight goals against Wolverhampton Wanderers and as he was getting changed, young Doyle, sweeping the dressing-room floor, inquired into the condition of the great man's back, implying that it must be aching after bending down so frequently to retrieve the ball from the net. The precocious kid paid for his cheek, being sentenced to wash Trautmann's car for the rest of the season, but a colourful character had made the first of many indelible marks with his new employer.

After launching a lasting mutual emnity with George Best in an FA Youth Cup semi-final which was lost to Manchester United in the spring of 1964 – the pair just rubbed each other up the wrong way – the 18-year-old Doyle made his senior debut, as a wing-half, in a Second Division game at Cardiff in March 1965 and by season's end was laying claim to a regular place.

That summer City's world was turned upside down by the arrival of Mercer and Allison, whose inspirational approach rapidly lifted the side from mid-table mediocrity to promotion at the head of the second tier in 1966. During that season, and the one that followed consolidating among the élite, Doyle was never quite a fixture in the side, but did more than enough to underline his potential, usually in midfield but occasionally, and successfully, as an emergency centre-forward.

But it was in 1967-68, which climaxed with City pipping reigning champions United to the League title on the last afternoon of the season, that Doyle made the No 4 shirt his own. Aggressive in the tackle, effective in the air and capable of joining in smoothly with the flowing movement of a wondrously entertaining team, he shone brightly, his lustre particularly noticeable as United were cuffed aside at Old Trafford in a crucial springtime encounter.

The glory continued with Doyle prominent as Leicester were beaten 1-0 in the 1969 FA Cup final; then he scored an equaliser as West Bromwich Albion were overcome 2-1 in the 1970 League Cup final, and he was a dominant figure as City defeated the Polish side Gornik Zabrze by the same score to lift the European Cup-Winners' Cup a few weeks later. Soon afterwards Mercer stepped aside, albeit uneasily, to leave Allison in control.

City seemed to be on course for another title in 1972 until the signing of the gifted but enigmatic Rodney Marsh appeared to disrupt the balance of the side and they fell away to finish fourth, although only one point behind champions Derby County. Doyle never liked Marsh, seeing him as a flashy southern poser, and didn't trouble to hide his feelings, which was typical.

In 1973 there came a watershed when Doyle switched to central defence, initially alongside Tommy Booth and then in partnership with newcomer Dave Watson. He proved majestic in the new role, which he occupied as City lost the 1974 League Cup final to Wolves, and on the last Saturday of that season he was on top form and exultant as a City win at Old Trafford confirmed the relegation of what had become an extremely poor United side.

A year later Doyle was handed the task for which he might have been born, the captaincy of Manchester City, by his former team-mate Tony Book, by then the manager. He proved a splendid leader and was practically bursting with pride after leading his charges to League Cup final triumph over Newcastle United in 1976. Such was his command and reliability that term that Doyle earned what the Maine Road faithful maintained was woefully overdue full international recognition, Don Revie calling him up to face Wales at Wrexham. However, his top-level tenure was to be short-lived, his final game for his country ending in dismal defeat by the Netherlands in February 1977, when he was one of three centre-halves fielded by Revie against opponents with no recognised centre-forward.

Still, Doyle collected five caps to add to his eight under-23 appearances and two outings for the Football League, and might have gained further senior honours had he not been forced to withdraw from England's provisional World Cup finals squad in 1970 because his wife was seriously ill. For most of 1976-77 Doyle remained at his best, but he was never quite the same again after an ankle injury in the spring. City missed him, then, in a series of crucial games, which might have been a decisive factor in another tense championship race, the Blues finishing as runners-up, this time a point adrift of Liverpool.

Thereafter he struggled for fitness and in July 1978, having entered his 30s and played more than 550 times for the Blues – more than anyone else except Joe Corrigan and Alan Oakes – he was sold to second-tier Stoke City for £50,000. At the Victoria Ground, despite often playing through pain, Doyle gave magnificent value for money as the Potters were promoted in 1979 and he was voted the club's player of the year. After helping Stoke adjust to life in the First Division, he stepped down a level with Bolton Wanderers in January 1982, then gave the last season of his career to Rochdale of the Fourth Division in 1983-84.

Later Doyle, who worked as a representative for a sports equipment company after retiring from football, drank heavily, and in 2007 he spent a spell in the Sporting Chance clinic set up by Tony Adams through the Professional Footballers Association. Thereafter he shunned alcohol for 18 months but the problem resurfaced and his premature death, at the age of 64, was due to liver failure.

Ivan Ponting

Michael Doyle, footballer: born Manchester 25 November 1946; played for Manchester City 1962-78, Stoke City 1978-82, Bolton Wanderers 1982-83, Rochdale 1983-84; capped five times by England 1976-77; married (two sons, two daughters); died Ashton-under-Lyne 27 June 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence