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.

peopleTop Gear presenter and all-round controversialist is at it again
Life & Style
techHow a 'grey brick' took over the world of portable gaming
Aaron Ramsey celebrates after opening the scoring in Arsenal's win over Hull `
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Coren Mitchell, who is the daughter of the late broadcaster Alan Coren and is married to comedian David Mitchell, produced a hand to make poker history at the 98th EPT main event.
peopleJournalist and TV presenter becomes first ever two-time winner of the European Poker Tour
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
food + drinkSprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
politicsLabour launches the 'completely hollow' Easter Clegg
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Last, but by no means least, is Tommy Cooper and the fez. This style of hat became a permanent trademark of his act.
comedyNot Like That, Like This centres on alleged domestic abuse
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players