A new year is looming and, given the events of the last 12 months, nobody will be celebrating with more gusto when the clock strikes midnight on December 31 than Kevin Doyle.
To say that 2009 was something of a let-down for the Ireland international would be one of the year’s greatest understatements.
As if the disappointment of Reading’s end-of-season meltdown – which saw them dumped out of the play-offs by Burnley and lose their respected manager, Steve Coppell – was not enough to stomach, Doyle’s agony was then compounded by Thierry Henry, Paris and all that.
Missing out on next summer’s jamboree in South Africa still smarts for the Wexford-born striker but at least he can look forward to 2010 with a degree of optimism, now that his new club Wolves appear to be finding their feet in the Premier League.
This win at a supposed Champions League contender, sealed by Doyle’s neat flicked header in the fifth minute, was their second in a row and lifted them out of the relegation zone. Premier League survival would not erase the memory of that night at Stade de France for Doyle, but at least he is learning how to smile again.
“It took me a while to get over, I’ll tell you,” he said. “It’s the World Cup and playing for Ireland. Who knows if I’ll be around for another chance or will we be in such a good position again? It’ll never be out of my system unless I do get to a World Cup.
“I didn’t watch the draw for the tournament and I probably won’t watch the World Cup either. I just hope to do well with Wolves and be in the Premier League and forget about all that next summer.”
The chances of that are looking considerably brighter than they were a fortnight ago when a dismal home defeat by Birmingham led to manager Mick McCarthy publicly questioning his squad’s quality.
Since then they have beaten Bolton at Molineux and, now, scalped Spurs on their own turf, arguably the most impressive result of McCarthy’s club managerial career.
Confidence, rock-bottom after the Birmingham defeat, is flourishing once again – so much so that Doyle is even targeting a positive return from Wednesday’s trip to Manchester United.
“The manager deservedly ripped into us after the Birmingham game,” he said. “We were very poor that day, we talked about it, we looked at the video and saw we were, and we’ve put that right the last few games.
“This win is a massive, massive boost. We’re out of the bottom three. Psychologically it is huge because we have a game at United coming up.
“People would have said forget about Tottenham but it shows that anyone can beat anyone in this league. We go to Old Trafford feeling the same.”
It might be expecting too much for Wolves to conquer the champions but if they can repeat the disciplined performance they produced here, anything might be possible – especially if United defend as sloppily as Spurs did when nobody in the home back-line rose to combat Nenad Milijas’ cross, which was touched in deftly by Doyle.
Spurs did exert some serious pressure in the second half, when Tom Huddlestone forced a fine save from Marcus Hahnemann and Karl Henry cleared a Vedran Corluka effort off the line.
But this, ultimately, was another bad day for Tottenham, who are now without a win in three games since their 9-1 trouncing of Wigan.
Robbie Keane, handed a relatively rare start by Harry Redknapp, endured another disappointing afternoon and a sour day ended on an appropriate note when left-back Assou Benoit-Ekotto was accused of grappling with a supporter who had subjected him to verbal abuse just after the final whistle.
Wednesday’s meeting with Manchester City, whose top four credentials seem robust compared to Spurs, has acquired a critical air.
“These points are not enough, we need to get some points straightaway against City on Wednesday,” defender Sebastien Bassong said.
“All the good teams are winning when they are not playing well. If you want to be a really good team in this league you have to. It’s coming but there’s work to be done.”
REFEREE: Stuart Atwell (West Midlands) 6: Dealt with everything in an assured manner.
MATCH RATING: *** Backs to the wall stuff for long spells after Wolves scored, but there was still drama to be had in that.
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