Michael Doyle: Portsmouth generated one of best atmospheres of my career – and those fans will help defeat Sunderland

Fratton Park’s last play-off encounter generated one of the greatest atmospheres of Michael Doyle’s career.

Tuesday, 14th May 2019, 5:28 pm
Former Pompey skipper Michael Doyle Picture: Joe Pepler

Now Pompey’s title-winning skipper is backing the inspirational Fratton faithful to roar their side onto victory against Sunderland.

Thursday night will decide whether Kenny Jackett’s reach Wembley for a second time this season.

Trailling the Black Cats 1-0 following Saturday’s play-off semi-final first leg, the Blues must win either by two clear goals or through a penalty shoot-out.

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Doyle was Blues skipper when Plymouth visited in May 2016 for the first leg of the League Two play-offs.

That day Paul Cook’s side drew 2-2, before slipping to a 3-2 aggregate defeat at Home Park, courtesy of Peter Hartley’s heartbreaking stoppage-time eliminator.

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But this time around, the Irishman is anticipating the fervent Fratton support driving Jackett’s troops onto the final.

Former Pompey skipper Michael Doyle Picture: Joe Pepler

Doyle said: ‘Some players will thrive in that Fratton Park environment. You would certainly expect Sunderland to turn up and embrace it considering some of their team have played in the Premier League.

‘But Pompey’s players know what it means to represent that club, they understand the fans and the way they are. It can grow you arms and legs playing for Pompey with that great following.

‘Personally, Plymouth was one of the best atmospheres I’ve played in over the years. When Sparky (Marc McNulty) scored the opening goal the place erupted.

‘There was a lot to be learnt from that, we probably got too caught up after scoring and suddenly Plymouth were in the lead. You have to control yourself when you are in that situation.

Michael Doyle celebrates with goalscorer Marc McNulty following the opener in the May 2016 League Two play-off semi-final first leg against Plymouth. Credit: Barry Zee

‘The way Pompey is, as a club and the fans, they don’t stop, they embrace these occasions. It’s what that club is all about.

‘I was at Sunderland on Saturday and there was a real sense of disappointment among their fans that they didn’t get automatic promotion. It wasn’t a play-off atmosphere, they weren’t happy to be there.

‘The atmosphere on Thursday, though, is going to be electric – and I think that could have a massive part to play, certainly for the players.’

Doyle represented Pompey 96 times, scoring three goals, before departing for Coventry on a free transfer in the summer of 2017.

Some two years on, just Ben Close, Matt Clarke, Christian Burgess and Gareth Evans remain of his former team-mates.

He added: ‘I expect Pompey to play a lot, lot better at home.

‘It’s possibly the last game of the season, there’s a trip to Wembley at stake, this Pompey team have this year responded when needed to, they’ve got some real character and fight in them.

‘From what I have seen, and having played against them, I expect Pompey to turn up on Thursday night and give a performance. I expect Pompey to win.’