Premier League Career: Reading (2006-2008), Wolverhampton Wanderers (2009-2012), Crystal Palace (2014)
Kevin Doyle retired from football in September 2017 on medical advice after complaining of persistent headaches. During his career, he did give many opposing defenders headaches with his sharp movements and instinctive finishing.
Finishing his career in the MLS with Colorado Rapids, Doyle’s final career total of 128 goals in 490 league appearances is impressive statistics for a player who was plucked from the Republic of Ireland Premier Division into the Premier League limelight with Reading.
Doyle signed his first professional contract in September 2001 with St Patrick’s Athletic as a free agent before joining current Irish champions Cork City 17 months later. He scored 25 goals for Cork and even had a spell playing on the right-wing rather than his usual central position in attack. His impressive performances were noted by Reading and Steve Coppell and they signed him in for a paltry £78,000 in June 2005. It has to be considered one of the finest bits of transfer business in the first decade of the new millennium.
He scored 19 goals as Reading soared to the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League, winning the club’s Player of the Season award and being named as the Fans’ Player of the Year by fellow Championship supporters. The step-up to the Premier League could have been very difficult for Doyle but he took to the new challenge with flying colours. He scored in just his second top-flight appearance in an away defeat to Aston Villa and finished with 13 Premier League goals, including scoring in a run of four successive matches during November 2006. His final tally could have been even greater but for a torn hamstring in mid-January which kept him out of action for two months. Doyle’s form saw him earn a nomination for PFA Young Player of the Year but he ultimately lost out to Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas.
2007-2008 was less successful for player and club. Kevin only found the back of the net six times in 36 appearances and after finishing a fine eighth in their debut Premier League campaign; Reading were relegated on the final day of the season. Despite being heavily linked with a move to Aston Villa in the summer of 2008, Reading held onto Doyle as they seeked an immediate return to the top-flight but they were pipped to automatic promotion by Birmingham City. Play-off defeat to Burnley would ultimately bring down the curtain on Doyle’s career at the Madjeski Stadium.
In June 2009, newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers paid Reading £6.5 million for Doyle’s services. Although he missed pre-season with a hernia, he made his Premier League bow for them in Wolves’ first away game of the campaign; a 1-0 defeat to Manchester City. He scored nine times in his debut season at Molineux and his performances saw him voted as the club’s Player of the Season. He managed only nine further league goals across another two seasons as Mick McCarthy often rotated him with Steven Fletcher. One moment that stands out for him was a header to beat Manchester United in February 2011; ending the Red Devils’ 29-match unbeaten run.
Wolves suffered back-to-back relegations and were in League One for the start of the 2013-2014 season. With a dramatic cut in the club’s wages, Doyle was considered too expensive to stay but he stuck around for the first half of the campaign in League One. He eventually left in January 2014, first for a loan spell with Queens Park Rangers, then a final fling in the Premier League with Crystal Palace. Neither club signed him permanently. He would eventually run down his contract with Wolves before departing in the summer of 2015. He was to leave English shores to have a crack playing in the United States with the Colorado Rapids. He would score 16 times in 71 appearances for Colorado. On the international scene, he won 64 caps for the Republic of Ireland and was part of the squad that reached the European Championships in 2012, although they lost every single match in Poland.
After suffering problems with concussion during 2017, Doyle had to make the difficult decision to stop playing. He said: “This year it has been clear to me that heading the ball was becoming problematic and causing me to have repeated headaches. I’m sad to announce that after listening to medical advice I will play no further part this season and will be retiring.”
Lively, energetic and a real pest on his day, Kevin Doyle represented his country with great dignity and was one of Reading’s finest Premier League players.