After ridding himself of the hurt caused by his axing under the previous manager, Kevin Doyle says he has no intention of settling for a bit-part role in the new Ireland regime.
Caretaker boss Noel King rescued Doyle from international exile last month and the 30-year-old is determined to show Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane his ability to cut it at top level despite operating these days in the third tier of English football for Wolves.
With added competition for the striker’s slots coming from the return of Anthony Stokes, the Wexford man realises the battle ahead of him.
Still, new sets of eyes and ears are there to be impressed and, following Friday’s cameo from the bench against Latvia, he’s in line to start in Poznan tomorrow night as O’Neill shuffles his deck for the meeting with Poland.
“When you have a new boss, everyone is on their toes and more eager to make an impact,” said Doyle.
“I think anyone who is content to be a squad member doesn’t really come here, to be honest.
“I don’t think anyone here would bother. If you feel you’re only going to be a squad player, it’s a pretty long time to be away, just sitting in a hotel room. I don’t think anyone has that in mind. You wouldn’t last too long.”
Although Doyle wasn’t surprised hot favourite O’Neill filled the vacancy earlier this month, like most of the country he was gladdened by the twist to the appointment in the shape of Roy Keane’s acquisition as assistant.
While Keane’s international career was petering out in 2005, Doyle’s was only starting and he’s eager to learn from the former skipper he had longed to play alongside.
“We have all watched Roy Keane over the years and know what a fantastic world class player he was,” he said.
“He was in the Ireland squad [in 2005] but was injured. It would have been nice to be involved with Roy, but it has been good and I want be around for a while. Hopefully they can improve us and get us to the Euros.
“I wouldn’t say it was a strange week working with the new management team but it was interesting. I’d never worked with the boss ]O’Neill] before but he has a fantastic reputation.”
For all the gains Doyle brought O’Neill’s predecessor, such as grabbing a late winner in Kazakhstan 14 months ago to save Trapattoni’s bacon, their relationship was spoiled by the manner in which he was dropped from the squad.
Upon arriving back in the Wolves dressing room after a game, Doyle was left deflated by a text message confirming his exclusion from the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria.
Trap’s assistant Marco Tardelli succeeded only in compounding the situation by declaring this method of communication was “normal” — but months later, the pain lingers.
“It was a bit disappointing how I was told — that was the only thing,” he admitted.
“I never fell out with him [Trapattoni], never thought I wouldn’t get back in either, so I got my head down. Four of us from Wolves went to the Euros and three or four months later we weren’t in the squad. That tells you something. It was tough but I understood it.”
When asked if his second coming has given him a greater appreciation for international football, the former Reading forward spoke as if absence had made his heart grow fonder.
“I don’t take it for granted,” he asserts. “You do miss it when you’re not there. You get more time off to spend with your family and I have young kids, that side of it. You try to enjoy that.
“But when the actual games themselves come around, like the qualifiers against Germany, Austria and Sweden, and you’re watching them, it hurts alright.”
Today’s he back in Poznan, where — in his own words — he and his team-mates didn’t do themselves justice at the European Championships 17 months ago. Reflecting on the experience, Doyle puffs out his cheeks, take a deep breath and sums up the contrasting emotions.
He said: “That was a blur, a real whirlwind. After such a long build-up and then all of a sudden you play three games in nine days. In that short time, we were out of the competition, going home and then away on holiday. It was only then you think that you just didn’t even see it coming.”
With the passage of time, and the changing of manager, Doyle has learned that there is always a shot at redemption. If it comes tonight, he’ll happily participate in the Poznan.
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