By Jason McKeown
There have been many different ways I’ve heard about a new Bradford City signing over the years, but sitting inside Valley Parade and watching the players warming up – and then realising the unfamiliar one going through his paces with the fitness coach was in fact very familiar – has to rank amongst the most unusual. Rather than A.N.Other trailist, I was watching Nathan Doyle.
A quick search on Twitter via my mobile confirmed the news that Doyle has signed a one-year contract to re-join a club for whom he performed so commendably during a six-month loan spell in 2006/07. At the time a rookie right back from Derby, Doyle quickly made a huge impression on City supporters with a series of accomplished displays. His loan deal was twice extended by manager Colin Todd, but Derby’s decision to cash in and sell him to Hull on January transfer deadline day hurt City badly, and was one of the key reasons for the subsequent collapse and relegation. Famously, Doyle was crowned Player of the Season for that campaign, despite only being around for half of it.
Since joining Hull, Doyle’s career has been decent but not as outstanding as we were confidently expecting six years ago. He was part of a Hull side en route to the Premier League and struggled to get much game time, making only five appearances. A loan move to Barnsley was made permanent, with Doyle – now playing as a central midfielder – firmly establishing himself as a Championship player and winning the club’s Players’ Player of the Season Award. However, two years ago, Doyle was arrested on suspicion of possessing cocaine, and ultimately lost his regular starting position.
As part of Width of a Post’s summer series reflecting on previous Player of the Season winners, Alex Scott wrote an outstanding article which sums up Doyle’s career post-City. Go read it again, it’s well worth it.
At 25-years-old, Doyle represents an excellent capture by Phil Parkinson, and his versatility will be needed over the coming months. As the club reels from the news Ricky Ravenhill is out injured until November, the smart money would be on Doyle starting the season alongside Gary Jones. Longer-term, he may be used again as right back.
One note of caution, however. The Nathan Doyle warming up on the pitch today was not exactly as athletic-looking as the 19-year-old who made such an impact in 2006/07. The other day my wife told me I need to go on a diet – so I’m in no position to criticise – but a fair bit of work may be needed on the training ground before Doyle is up to speed.