In these days of media training and a tighter rein on players, it’s left to the ex-players, pundits and fans on numerous platforms to “wind their neck out” about the upcoming Manchester derby and fan the flames of this long-standing rivalry. It’s fair to say that we won’t be hearing anything but platitudes from the current players, but it was not always so.
When the derby games come around and the rivalry goes up to another level, there is just one name that immediately comes to mind, that of Mike Doyle. In his obituary penned by Brian Glanville in The Guardian, he was described as a “bastion of club loyalty” and of possessing “an almost visceral hatred of Manchester United”.
Mike was born in Reddish Vale, Stockport. He traced his initial dislike back to the school playground, which he described as “a breeding ground for glory-hunting Reds”. He stated that they would taunt him about United’s alleged superiority, as they knew of his City leanings. This was at a time when it was not unusual for fans to support both sides and Mike, by his own admission, had been one of these fans.
He stated in his autobiography Blue Blood that he still followed both City and United at the time he was being scouted whilst playing for Stockport Boys by some of the top First Divisions best teams. However, those playground taunts may have come to mind when he finally signed as an apprentice for City in May 1962, turning down Wolverhampton Wanderers and United. Over the coming years he would return those jibes in spade loads as part of the team which regularly beat United under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison.
The story he relayed most often about how, as a professional, he became the man United fans loved to hate, was an event during the 1969-70 season. City were the only English team left in Europe, they had won the First Division in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969 and would go on to win the League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in 1970.
They were on the trip back from a European away tie when the players picked up copies of the morning papers to find a back page splash about a United win in a mere friendly, whilst City were shoved down a small side column. Doyle stated that “the national media were obsessed by United” and he was sick of it, especially as City were not getting their due, and he let a Daily Mirror journalist know in no uncertain terms what he thought of this “shite the press were pedalling”. When prompted to say what he thought about United, he said he couldn’t stand them. City got the back page the next day with the headline “Doyle Hates United!”.
Personal threats, property damage, abusive letters (no Twitter then) and finally a death threat followed the article. Mike’s response was to say, “if that’s the way they want to play it, I will redouble my efforts in abusing the Reds”. He was as good as his word and he went on TV and in the press at every opportunity in the run up to a derby, saying their players were not up to City’s level and how City would win easily. He then backed up his boasts on the field; for the record he played sixteen derby games and lost only one.
From the proliferation of red shirts being sported in my local area, it would appear that there is a perception amongst many of their “fans” that they are back on top of the tree, brimming over with confidence. This is then backed up by the default position of the press, as it was in Mike’s day, only today the same Mirror newspaper reports how “Jose Mourinho has transformed United in 100 days” apparently. Good luck finding a similar Pep/City article in the nationals; it’s the same as it ever was.
Oh for a City champion like Mike today. It was said that in his day, “no build-up to a derby was complete without his inflammatory outpourings from this City loyalist”, who had to put up with the same rubbish all the City fans have had to put up with. Mike Doyle was a legend, a great City player in midfield then later in defence, a great captain and a proper City fan. He gave his all out on the pitch, especially on derby day, and would love to see us get yet another win over the red half of Manchester in their own backyard this weekend.
Written by Richard Donlan
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