On Monday night at The Celtic Tavern, the Colorado Rapids had a meet and greet with new Designated Player, striker Kevin Doyle. It was a nice night as Doyle was supported by a number of front office staff including Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni, Team President Tim Hinchey, VP of Soccer Operations and Technical Director Paul Bravo, and Sporting Director Padraig Smith.
I was contacted by the Rapids to sit down and chat with Doyle privately at the meet and greet and he and I chatted for a bit about a number of topics including his move to Major League Soccer and Colorado, his boyhood club and his preferred position on the pitch.
The first thing I learned about Doyle was how relaxed and incredibly down to Earth he is. He has had a whirlwind of a trip to get to Colorado. He had only arrived on Saturday from Europe and had a press conference Monday morning and then the meet and greet Monday night. It has been a crazy couple of days for him, let alone being away from his family. But that the fact that he took the time to personally meet the large group of fans that were in attendance shows much about his character.
The second thing I learned is that he is truly excited to be here in Colorado. I remember the early days of MLS when players would come over to play here as it was considered a retirement league and attracting top level talent, from players in their prime was something that was just not done. But as the league has evolved in the last 5-10 years, players are coming in their prime to ply their trade. And this includes Kevin Doyle.
Doyle is the highest profile signing that the Rapids have ever made and the expectations on his production and play are going to be quite high. And based on that profile of his signing, they probably should be. Will he live up to those expectations? Only time will tell, but one thing I did get from him is that he will Bleed Burgundy and will give everything he can to make the Rapids successful.
The opening part of our discussion dealt with the reasons for moving to Major League Soccer and more specifically the Rapids. Doyle was very open with me about his reasons to come here and a lot of it had to do with the right circumstance and at the right time:
Burgundy Wave: So what interested you about the Rapids to leave the UK to come here to Colorado?
Kevin Doyle: When I was asked first, truthfully, because I was told my contract was coming up at the end of the season and this was January time, my agent asked me what I wanted to do at the end of the season. I said I don't know, I'll have to think about it over a few months. He got back to me a bit later and said that there was an opportunity to go to Colorado in the MLS and would I be interested. I told him well my wife is due a few weeks later and to be honest no, I've got a two year old and about to have a newborn. It just wouldn't be feasible, my wife would strangle me.
(we both had a nice chuckle at this notion)
And it is just going to be difficult, logistically but he said OK fine. But he came back and said that Colorado are persistent, why don't you come out and take a look, maybe you will change your mind. And I did. Really loved the place straight away. I came out with my brother for two days and was really well looked after, shown around and really just fell in love with the place. And I thought why not. And my wife was like, why not, let's go for it. Our kids are young, we don't need to take them out of school so let's go for it.
BW: A lot of players, when they are coming over from the UK or Europe, think of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle. Denver is not usually on top of that list.
KD: Well, I had never been to Denver. I had been to New York, but so far it is ideal. I love it.
BW: Except for our weather
(we both laughed out loud at the current state of the Colorado weather)
KD: I'm told it will improve drastically. I lived in London and I lived in Birmingham and they are just manic. When I was in London for six months it used to take me 45 minutes to go nine miles, so I just couldn't face that anymore. And I lived in Birmingham and I'm from Ireland. I'm used to a lot more space and lot of greenery and it's nice and it (Denver) feels like that kind of place.
BW: Did you know anything about Colorado?
KD: About the place? No. I did know about the team that they won the MLS a few years ago. Only this year have we got a chance in the UK and Ireland to follow the MLS because it is on TV now which has made a big difference. Two of the Rapids games have been live on Sky Sports in England, which is the biggest sports channel in the UK so all of a sudden it has been a bigger interest to people. Before that the only thing we heard was about Robbie Keane and he brought the level of attention up in the UK and Ireland. Especially Ireland. It just really wasn't on people's radar until that.
I then transitioned into what his impression of MLS is, where he sees himself on the pitch for the Rapids, and the biggest adjustment to life in the United States.
BW: And that leads to the question, what is the overall impression with Major League Soccer?
KD: Everyone is quite excited about it. In the two months since I agreed to sign anyone I have spoken to has asked how do I go about, you know, come over. I think people are really seeing that it football is as high as popularity as it can be in England, but here (the USA) it is growing and it is becoming more and more popular and it is exciting to be a part of. And I think other players are starting to notice that it is another option for players and another league to consider. And it is a way to see a fantastic country and a fantastic opportunity to try something different really.
BW: Richard Fleming talked to you about earlier it today. 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2? Are you a target forward? Where do you see yourself?
KD: Yeah, I've done both. I've probably played my best as a one, but you could argue that I've played by my best as a two, but you'd probably have to ask my manager about that. I've played behind the striker, so in the middle of the three and in my younger days I've played wide. I have played as the one in recent years as the target forward but I do really enjoy both as the one or the two. I do enjoy both, but sometimes it is nice to change it up a bit.
BW: What is your biggest adjustment coming here to Colorado?
KD: Right now, it is the time difference! And the altitude!
(we both enjoy a nice laugh at this)
Long term though, the football I am sure, and I have been at different clubs, it all about routine. In a couple of weeks it's just like you've never been anywhere else. It is more about the change in countries. You know, getting the social security number, the drivers license, and you know, all those things in the next few weeks. Moving into a new house. All those things outside of football that you need to deal with.
BW: Getting your family here as well
KD: Yeah, I have moved all of our stuff out of the UK and it is in Ireland now. Not only are we moving to America, we have moved from the UK to Ireland and had a newborn. So really, it is just shutting up shop over there and tying up a million lose ends over there.
BW: So our timing is good then?
KD: (laughs) yeah, it has been a manic, manic few weeks for us.
BW: I am going to put you on the spot here: Reading or Wolves?
(Editor's note: Doyle made 155 appearance for Reading and 164 for Wolves scoring 55 goals and 30 goals respectively)
At this point Doyle begins laughing and smiling and he seemed to be remembering fondly his time at both clubs
KD: I had more success at Reading, but at Wolves my first three years there were some of my best football, but after the third year we got relegated (from the English Premier League to the English Championship) and we had a couple of really difficult years. In different ways I really enjoyed my time at both clubs.
BW: Last question: your boyhood club...who did you grow up following?
KD: Manchester United!
KD: Yeah, I had the wallpaper. At that point they had not won the league in forever, and I just really loved them.
BW: That is kind of funny, because for the longest time here in America people liked Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea because that is all that was on TV.
KD: Same as in Ireland. That was all that we could watch.
BW: Now we are seeing, with the Prem on TV so much more, that people are starting to support Everton or Spurs so it is really growing. But Man United? Wow, you are going to make a lot of people here very happy!
KD: I had the wallpaper, duvet cover, every jersey. When I was about four years old, my Godfather got me a Manchester United jersey for my birthday and that really was the reason that I became a Man United fan. And I have been an absolute fanatic until 15 or 16.
BW: You know who owns the Rapids right?
(we both laugh at this)
KD: Yeah, but I have always been a fan of Man United. Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel, Andy Cole, all those guys. But once I got older and started to play against them I was not as big of a fan.
BW: Well, Kevin thank you so very much for your time and congratulations on joining the Rapids.
KD: Your welcome. Thank you.