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Thursday 23 November 2017

Doyle has the world at his feet

Rising fortunes of Wolves’ star stand in stark contrast to captain Keane’s faltering career

AMIDST an ocean of hyperbole and self-importance, Kevin Doyle is a one-off.

He has no agent, he uses his brain more often than most footballers and he has plotted his progress up the Premier League ladder in a thoughtful and careful way.

This approach has brought him to the brink of greatness and in the coming months, it is likely that we will see a big change in the circumstances of Giovanni Trapattoni's two top strikers; change which could shape plans for the Euro 2012 qualifying round and signal the beginning of the end of Keane's 10-year run as Ireland's undisputed goal king.

Put simply, Doyle is on the way up at great speed while his international skipper and striker partner Robbie Keane is treading water before the inevitable descent.

The simple fact that Doyle chooses to meet the world head-on and shies away from men who would insert hooks into his life reveals a man who is extraordinarily well-adjusted and confident in his ability to run his own life – no small achievement in an environment dominated by human sharks.

Modesty and maturity govern his agentless actions and so far, making his own decisions with advice from wise owls like Mick Wallace and Pat Dolan hasn't done him any harm at all.

But his talent can no longer be contained within the confines of Molineux and in the coming months, Mick McCarthy will have to grit his teeth and pass on an increasing range of big offers to his model player.

When it happens, Doyle's move away from Wolves will come in entirely different circumstances to the way Keane blazed a trail from Molineux to Milan and back to the Premier League.

Everything about Doyle's career has been weighed and tested before a decision is made and if he judges that the moment is right to leave, he might well meet his international captain and strike partner in the revolving door.

Ideally, McCarthy would love to team Keane up with Doyle and replicate their international partnership in the Premier League.

MONEY

But his best hope will be to have one of them on the pitch come next August. The money he gets for Doyle will more than cover a serious offer to Spurs, one that would definitely interest Harry Redknapp.

With Champions League football in his pocket, Redknapp is in a much stronger position now than he was when Keane took the Spurs squad to Malahide for a Christmas knees up.

Back then, Keane's relationship with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was enough to balance Redknapp's anger but power has shifted towards the manager and it will be a surprise if Ireland's record goal scorer isn't on the move in the coming months.

This is, of course, very unfair on Keane in many ways. After a long spell of honest hard work and solid application to his profession with Spurs, a somewhat rash decision to head for the SPL only confirmed, however temporarily, the long-held suspicion that he is happiest as a big fish in a small pond.

In reality, his waning reputation is as much about the turning of the seasons as it is about his ability score goals. Time has done nothing to improve his image as a gifted if erratic striker.

But he is still a player for the big moment and the Champions League is the natural home for that kind of drama if the World Cup is out of the question for another four years.

His ambition has always been to shine in Europe's premier competition and he was handed a tantalising glimpse of what might be for Liverpool before Rafa Benitez used him as a crude chess piece in his battle with Rick Parry.

For Keane, Champions League football has always been a shimmering mirage. Just when Spurs make it over the line, he's off indulging a fantasy in Paradise.

Keane's combined total for the season including goals for Spurs, Celtic and the Republic of Ireland is an eye-catching 30 yet his future has never been more confused than it is now and by the sound of things, Keane is feeling somewhat bi-located.

“I'm a Tottenham player aren't I? I've got a contract with Tottenham so I will be back there unless someone tells me different. I don't want to be disrespectful to Tottenham, I've got a contract there so as far as I'm concerned I will be back there,” he said.

In practical terms, Keane is a Tottenham player but he will return to a squad which qualified for the Champions League without him and is top heavy with goalscoring talent.

Contrast that with the possibilities which are likely to open up in front of Doyle in the short term. Men like John Giles rave about his potential and see nothing but great things ahead once he stays fit.

In the last few seasons he has been gathering strength and fitness without shooting the lights out in the scoring stakes. At club and international level, he has been forced to run for the greater good, to some degree buying his natural instincts.

GUNNER

Without doubt, this has impacted in a negative way on his final goals total this season. Wolves' survival imperative required Doyle to defend as much as attack and he was often the lone gunner up front when McCarthy felt free enough to search out a goal or two.

But with the right service and surrounded by players of Champions League quality, Doyle's true value would emerge as a goalscorer and provider.

It is entirely likely that it will be Doyle and not Keane who will be in the thick of a Champions League campaign and fighting hard at the business end of the Premier League or even Serie A title race next season.

Arsene Wenger is known to be a big fan and Alex Ferguson too.

According to Trapattoni, Doyle could function very nicely indeed in an Italian environment. Doyle's work ethic and powerful running would suit any Serie A team but would also find a comfortable niche at Stamford Bridge if Carlo Ancelotti is so inclined.

The ultimate irony would be if Harry Redknapp saw a role for Doyle in his resurgent Spurs set-up and it came at Keane's expense.

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