Sheffield United: Farewell but not goodbye for Michael Doyle

Blades old boy Michael Doyle

Blades old boy Michael Doyle

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For most of his four and a half years as a Sheffield United player, Michael Doyle skilfully avoided any fanfare or fuss.

But, after circumstances conspired to deny the midfielder a proper send-off following May’s play-off semi-finals, he decided it was time to break the habit of a lifetime and court the headlines instead.

Michael Doyle in combative mood

Michael Doyle in combative mood

“Basically, I just want to say thanks,” Doyle told The Star last night. “Thanks to my old teammates, thanks to the staff I’ve worked with and, of course, thanks to the fans.

“What I don’t want to do, though, is to say goodbye. Because that implies that I’m not going to be coming back.”

Doyle is unlikely to be spotted at Bramall Lane anytime soon having joined Portsmouth during the close season.

However, despite entering the latest chapter of a career which has spanned 12 seasons and six different clubs, he acknowledged that a piece of him will forever be red and white.

“I’ve got a job to do elsewhere now and all my energies will be going into that,” he said, “But I’ll still be rooting for the lads up there and urging them on. Hopefully this is going to be their year.

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“Sheffield United never leave you. I had some wonderful times there and made some friends that will stay with me forever.

“I’ve been in touch to wish them all good luck and I’ve had plenty of messages telling me the same.

“Things change quickly in football. People come and go.

“But, by taking the time, that speaks volumes about the type of people they are, which is why I asked to do this interview.”

Doyle, aged 33, joined United on a free transfer midway through the 2010/11 campaign. His first goal came 12 months later during a 4-0 victory over Yeovil Town. Although United failed to regain their Championship status - losing 8-7 on penalties to Huddersfield at Wembley - Doyle was awarded a new long-term contract which expired soon after another ill-fated play-off campaign, this time against Swindon in May.

“If I have one regret, it’s not being able to help get Sheffield United promoted,” he said. “Seriously, if there’s a club that deserves to go up it’s them. It’s been far too long now. The numbers the fans turn out in is something else.”

But the highs, including reaching the last four of both the FA and Capital One Cup, outweighed the lows.

“Going back to Wembley in the cup and those two games against Spurs were brilliant,” Doyle continued. “No matter whether you’re on the pitch or not, just being involved in that type of occasion is special.

“I was really proud to be captain too, and also of getting the backing of the fans.

“It’s not something I ever really deliberately court or worry about because if you do your job then people will recognise that. But it still meant a lot because they’re good, dedicated people.”

Doyle, who progressed through the ranks at Celtic before representing Aarhus, Coventry City and Leeds, has agreed a 12-month contract at Fratton Park.

“Sheffield isn’t far away from where I live so, when I retire or get the time, I’ll definitely be coming back to watch, like I said,” Doyle added. “Without a doubt.”