The traffic lights are green but our taxi driver slams on the brakes in Wolverhampton’s city centre and Tomasz Kuszczak is ready to light up the sleepy Monday morning with some colorful language.
The Pole’s ire bubbles as his train of thought is broken. He had just been busy extolling the virtues of club-mate Kevin Doyle and was coming to his main point before being rudely interupted. “Where was I?,” asks the Wolves goalkeeper. “Oh yes, Doyley. That guy...let me tell you, he will surprise you. Just when you think you’ve got him figured out he’ll do something to make you like him even more.”
Kuszczak is showing his first act of kindness — the second will come later when he pays for our short taxi journey from Wolves’ training ground to the nearby train station — because he knows that Doyle will soon be on the other side of the world playing his football, so there is no need for such lavish compliments.
Yet, it’s curious that he uses the word ‘surprise’. Now 31, Doyle is someone who have been in the spotlight since his wild-running days with Cork City through to his goalscoring exploits with the Republic of Ireland. But it’s a long time since he took people by surprise.
After bidding farewell to Kuszczak, who is headed back to his home in Cheshire, there is time to reflect on the interview conducted with Doyle earlier that morning. And it hits home that while Kuszczak was referring to his team-mate’s play on the pitch, it his personality off it that intrigues most.
Take the move to MLS for example. Doyle could have extended his stay in England, but the Wexford native signed for Colorado Rapids instead — and should make his debut this Saturday against Vancouver Whitecaps. He only spent one day in Denver assessing the club before making up his mind and that gives an insight to his intellect.
Doyle, you see, is someone who thinks carefully about the moves that he makes and he has learned to trust his instincts. So, is he content with the decisions that he has made? “Definitely, it’s gone better than expected,” says Doyle of his career.
“Like anything in life, there are one or two things that you would like to change, but when you look at the bigger picture it’s been great and hopefully there’s more to come.
“I wasn’t looking at MLS, but when the call came it was at a good time for me. I went out there and was really impressed by the set-up and their club’s ambition. And I still feel that I have a few years left to play.
“I’m thankful for having started in the League of Ireland because it was the right thing for me at that time. Maybe if I went to England at 15 or 16 I wouldn’t have made it, but coming up the way that I did has made me appreciate this life as a professional footballer.”
No matter the set-backs, from injuries to harsh treatment by managers, Doyle still loves football. That’s obvious when you see him interact with players and staff at the training ground, but he also loves to disconnect from that world into the wonder of a good book.
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) May 18, 2015
Right now, his bedside reading is Gregory David Roberts’ ‘Shantaram’, but he will sometimes get obssessed with certain genres or topics, such as World War II, which he escapes to once his wife and two young kids fall victim to another day’s worth of exhaustion.
“People have a perception of footballers, but 90 per cent of them are quiet and like everyone else, but you’ll always have a few who make the headlines and give a bad name to the others,” says Doyle. “Maybe that’s just a case of young people who earn a lot of money and haven’t learnt lessons yet but that’s just life really — they just happen to be in the spotlight. But there’s young lads on the Wolves bus who are studying for degrees on the way to games.”
It gnaws at Doyle that he didn’t use his spare time through the years to earn qualifications outside of football. It’s an avenue that he may yet explore — and the same goes for coaching and media work — but only once he hangs up his boots. He’s still a young man, but in footballing terms he’s on the wrong side of 30, which means that his days within male-dominated environments where everything he could ever need is readily available are being marked off like an Advent calendar.
“It’s like you’re still in school basically,” joked Doyle. “You’re treated a bit like schoolkids and you act a bit like schoolkids. At 31 though, I’d like to think I’ve moved on a little from that.”
Maturity has kept Doyle grounded and as he looks forward to starting the next chapter of his career with Colorado, the warning from Kuszczak comes around again – “he will surprise you”.
Let’s hope so!
THE IRISH CONNECTION
Kevin Doyle won’t be the first Irishman to line out for Colorado Rapids in MLS once he makes his debut and he’ll notice some familiar accents too.
Here are the club’s Irish connections:
Padraig Smith (Sporting Director)
The man responsible for introducing the Salary Cost Protocol to the League of Ireland, Smith worked his way up the ladder at the FAI before being recruited by UEFA. The Meath man did terrific work there but is now charged with handling Rapids’ sporting and financial matters.
Shane O’Neill (Defender)
Born in Cork, raised in Denver, O’Neill is considered one of the best young players in MLS and is on the cusp of breaking into the USA squad.
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