The statistics show that Doyle managed six goals in his first 25 Premier League starts since moving to Moulineux. Ordinarily, these would be pretty mundane numbers for an experienced forward. If you watch how often Wolves play with him as the lone gunman however, that he has managed half a dozen strikes is nothing short of miraculous. Until Chris Iwelumo was introduced as a second striker in the 89th minute last Saturday, Doyle was bouncing off Richard Dunne and James Collins all afternoon long. He spent most of his time running into the right and left channels winning the ball and then holding it until his midfielders could push forward in support.
How is anybody expected to score regularly when their primary role involves winning free-kicks and competing for 50-50 balls with twin center-halves? It is a measure of Doyle’s development as a player that he has made such a good fist of this forlorn task that already the speculation has begun about which Premier League team will try to prise him away from Wolves this summer if his current employers are relegated. Even McCarthy can’t ignore the rumors and whispers about a possible move.
“If we go down, we have no chance of holding on to him,” said McCarthy the other week. “If we stay up, we might still have a problem because there will be a few interested. We have seen all the teams now and I’ve not noticed many better players than him. I’m not doing a selling job saying that because I’m not telling other managers anything they don’t know. He would not be out of place in the company of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.”
To this point, Doyle has certainly proved he was worth every penny that Wolves paid for him. It says much for the club’s fans that they know enough about the game to realize that, beyond a paltry goals tally, he has often been the team’s best performer in this campaign. Many of the message boards contain encomiums explaining just why he should be voted Wolves’ player of the year at season’s end. In an age when so many supporters are sunny-day types who glean their knowledge from highlight reels, the Wolves’ faithful are obviously a smart lot to acknowledge the difficulty of the job Doyle faces.
None of this is McCarthy’s fault either. In bringing Wolves into the top flight on the same shoe-string budget he used to promote Sunderland a few years back, he proved he has developed into a seriously impressive manager. Whether the club’s refusal to spend big to stay there was his decision or the owner’s is a moot point too. What matters is that he’s set out his stall tactically to try to avoid defeats and to, however possible, cling to their Premier League status without risking bankrupting the club. This makes them easy for the neutral to root for even if their quality suggests more a top-level championship team than anything else.
The lack-luster quality of the squad may also be a reason why Doyle leaves even if Wolves survive. Last summer when he was unveiled to the press, he told reporters he expected to be merely the first instance of big spending by the club. That’s not quite how things panned out. Since then, McCarthy has signed Andrew Surman, Ronald Zubar, Stefan Maierhofer. Greg Halford, Geoffrey Mujangi Bia and Adiene Guedioura. Not only are they not names to conjure with or to excite fans, that sextet collectively cost less than the