Mike Doyle was part of that DNA as much as sky blue is our colour and Blue Moon our theme.
Doyle’s City career finished more than 40 years ago, but the former skipper, hard man and Manchester derby agitator is fondly remembered and still talked about some 40-plus years since he last pulled on the shirt he loved so much.
You see, Mike’s passion was Manchester City and everything the Club stood for at a time when the Blues and Reds were slugging it out for the city’s bragging rights, he was the player who understood, perhaps better than anyone, what it meant to play for City..
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It’s often said that football supporters want to see one thing more than anything else – a passion for the shirt and to play as they would play, given the chance.
Doyle was acutely aware of that and he made it his mantra to, as that wonderful flag our fans used to drape at home games, ‘play like we dream’. He achieved that and so much more.
And boy, did Mike Doyle love to wind the Reds up. He once claimed there were only two teams in Manchester – Manchester City and Manchester City Reserves – and that pretty much sums up one of the Blues’ most decorated players.
Doyle was incapable of giving less than 100 per cent and was both tough and uncompromising on the pitch. He was famed for his dislike of Manchester United and before the Manchester derbies of the 1960s and 70s, journalists would approach Doyle for a quote that would invariably stir things up - and City fans loved him for it!
Mike called a spade a spade, and if people didn’t like what he had to say, tough - he’d say it anyway. His autobiography ‘Blue Blood’ said everything about Mike Doyle.
So, where did it all begin?
Doyle joined City in 1962 as an apprentice when chief scout Harry Godwin visited his home in Reddish after hearing several clubs were on his trail. Apparently, Godwin said he knew he had a good chance of signing the Stockport Boys half-back when he saw his father’s police helmet on the dining room table with a City programme next to it!
Godwin didn’t have to convince the teenager to join the Blues – he jumped at the chance and soon made an impression at Maine Road, once asking Bert Trautmann if his back was OK after conceding eight goals and having to bend down and collect the ball out of the net against Wolves!
Trautmann wasn’t impressed and told the lippy youngster what he’d do if he showed a lack of respect again and he ended up washing Bert’s Volkswagen Beetle every week for the next few months.
An important lesson learned, Doyle buckled down and made his first-team debut at Cardiff City in March 1964. Welsh legend John Charles gave the skinny 17-year-old something of a pummelling, though he stuck to his task and held his own in a 2-2 draw.
Joe Mercer was quick to spot his potential when he took over as manager the following year and Doyle played 19 League games, scoring seven goals after playing several matches as an emergency striker and bagging an impressive six goals in four games.
It wasn’t until the 1967/68 campaign that Doyle was finally handed the No.4 jersey for keeps and he formed part of the backbone of the side that won the title that season, playing 40 of the 42 League games.
As the years went on, he liked nothing more than to wind United fans up, once claiming he loved playing the Reds because it was “four easy points” (it was just two points for a win back then). He even claimed he was “gutted” when United were relegated in 1974 – but only because it was the loss of two guaranteed victories.
Doyle seemed to dig even deeper when City played United and was on the losing side just once in the 16 derbies he played in between March 1968 and September 1975 – quite a feat.
After adding winner’s medals for the 1969 FA Cup and 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup, Doyle continued to be a permanent fixture in the City starting XI, gradually moving to centre-half from his usual half-back role.
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His form at club level was such that he was included in the provisional squad for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, but when his wife Cheryl fell ill, he stayed by her bedside and informed England he wasn’t available for selection.
He finally won the first of his five England caps in 1975 and the arrival of Dave Watson saw Doyle forge a superb central defensive partnership that became the scourge of strikers throughout the land.
Doyle was also handed the captain’s armband in ’75 for the first time and he celebrated his first year as skipper by lifting the League Cup in February 1976 with a 2-1 win over Newcastle.
Doyle almost captained City to the title the following year, too, missing out by a single point to Liverpool, though a persistent knee injury meant it was also the beginning of the end of his City career.
He managed just 13 starts during the 1977/78 season before calling time on his 16-year association with the Blues by joining Stoke in June 1978 for a fee of £50,000. In total, he’d played 558 times for City and scored 40 goals
He later had spells with Stoke, Bolton and Rochdale before retiring in 1984. Though Mike passed away in 2011 aged 64, he often spoke with pride of his grandson Tommy Doyle and how well he was doing playing for his school. His dream was that, one day, Tommy would carry on the family name and one day play for City.
That dream seems to edge nearer every passing week…