The natural leader who now resides in Pompey folklore

As Calvin Davies mourned the shattering of his Pompey footballing dream, the phone rang.

Saturday, 13th May 2017, 9:30 am
Updated Monday, 15th May 2017, 9:35 am
Michael Doyle celebrates scoring against Colchester. Picture: Joe Pepler

The surprise visitor on that dark Monday evening urged the heartbroken youngster to retain belief.

The professionalism and desire so impressive to those he trained alongside deserved to flourish on a new stage.

A timely comforting arm around the shoulder provided by Michael Doyle.

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Michael Doyle applauds angry Pompey fans at Barnet in February 2016. Picture: Joe Pepler

Alerted by Davies’ sudden departure from the players’ WhatsApp group, the Blues skipper that night sought out the North End youngster to offer comfort-blanket words.

Earlier that day, Paul Cook had informed the right-back his decade on the books of the hometown club he cheered on at Wembley in the 2008 FA Cup final was over.

The first player to hoist aloft a trophy for Pompey since Sol Campbell was now serving as a listening ear.

Within 72 hours, Doyle had also bid an emotional farewell to Fratton Park, time called on a Blues presence which has entered folklore.

Michael Doyle applauds angry Pompey fans at Barnet in February 2016. Picture: Joe Pepler

Having observed the uncomfortable handling of close friend Ben Davies’ exit the previous summer, along with team-mate Danny Hollands, the 35-year-old elected to depart on his own terms.

Cook wanted to keep his combative midfielder, understandably so, yet the absence of a contract to sign screamed far louder to the Irishman than gushing words.

Doyle was in no mood to devote a summer to pestering the Pompey hierarchy to table a deal, particularly with Coventry eager to bring him home. Head over heart triumphed.

Make no mistake, the veteran was eager to remain on the south coast, irrespective of the constant strain of regularly being separated from his family home near Market Bosworth, Leicestershire.

A consummate professional and impressive figure, football has long been the predominant motivation in the life of the former Celtic apprentice, such is his supreme dedication.

Yet five days after inspiring the Blues to the League Two title, he felt compelled to become the first member of the history-making squad to walk.

Necessity dictated an outcome he did not want to consider.

Irrespective of what would conceivably have been a watering down of Doyle’s role in Pompey’s new League One surroundings should he have remained, it is a departure to stir emotion among the Fratton faithful.

Blues followers have long inhabited a post-Premier League era starved of heroes and deprived of characters to admire, such has been the absence of quality and the prevalence of short-termism.

Then Doyle arrived in July 2015 following his release from Sheffield United.

By the end of the 2015-16 campaign, he had deservedly been named The News/Sport Mail’s player of the season and registered the goal of his life at Accrington.

Remarkably, for the final six months of a season which resulted in play-off qualification, Doyle turned out with a fractured bone in his left shin and medial collateral ligament damage to his left knee.

A weekly prescription of eight painkillers pulled him through matches for almost three months as Pompey’s skipper brushed off the trials and tribulations of a footballer to soldier on in his duties.

Of the Blues’ 92 League Two matches during Doyle’s time at the club, he missed only two.

The first was to serve a one-match suspension following a sending off at Oxford United, the other through Cook’s desire to rest him for the final league match ahead of the play-offs.

This term, the ex-Coventry player and David Forde – the Blues’ oldest players – were the only ever-presents in a league campaign which resulted in that memorable title triumph.

Cook trusted his skipper impeccably, loathing to remove him from a holding midfield role he excelled in.

The absence from this season’s 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Wycombe highlighting an essential presence.

In a team constructed upon outstanding fitness levels, Doyle has operated as the heartbeat, the lungs and the legs.

For the midfielder possesses a frightening will to win, an insatiable desire to succeed which could intimidate his team-mates almost as much as the opposition.

A withering glance towards errant playing colleagues had the power of a foghorn, with high standards essential in pursuit of glory.

Admittedly, Doyle’s approach spilled over into a skirmish with Christian Burgess during half-time against Stevenage, the defender requiring stitches in a head injury.

Although, the incident drew them closer – the duo remaining beside each other in the dressing room.

Regardless, Doyle is blessed with natural leadership, a man who refuses to cower from responsibility in the face of the severest provocation.

It was he who attempted to negotiate with furious supporters as bullets were fired during the toxic defeat at Barnet in February 2016.

In the aftermath of March’s abysmal home loss to Crewe, he defied Cook’s call for players not to address the media ahead of the trip to Crawley.

Pompey’s boss wanted silence in a bid not to irritate a furious fanbase.

The captain, though, insisted on stepping forward to issue an apology – and a rallying cry.

The team subsequently collected a staggering 31 points out of a possible 36 to snatch the League Two crown at the death.

Doyle’s two young daughters, Eliarna and Amalie, were mascots for last Saturday’s decisive 6-1 hammering of Cheltenham.

They will now be seeing a lot more of daddy at home.

Pompey have taken up enough of his time – although Doyle’s presence will forever reside in club folklore.