FORMER Hull City midfielder Nathan Doyle returns to the KC Stadium for the first time in a Barnsley shirt today enjoying a new lease of life.
Doyle, who celebrated his 24th birthday this week, made only five appearances for Hull during a three-year stay but is a regular now in the heart of Barnsley's midfield.
The one-time England Under-20 international cost 100,000 from Derby County but was allowed to leave on a free transfer by former manager Phil Brown and believes his game has improved under Mark Robins at Oakwell.
"It was nice to get out and play games because at Hull that wasn't really happening," he said. "My main aim as a footballer is to play games and I am just glad to be doing that with Barnsley.
"There's always room for improvement in every player and I am developing at going forward with the ball and passing and moving. I think I've done better this year than last year but I also think we have improved as a squad."
Doyle was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession four months ago, but was later released without charge by Derbyshire Police.
Having shaken off the unwelcome publicity, he now plays a key role in Barnsley's bid to find consistency and move up the Championship table.
"When you are not playing, you tend to be down-hearted and a bit sulky, a bit like a kid, but when you are playing week-in, week-out, it helps you develop on and off the pitch," he said. "There is always a belief that we can achieve something this season. We are a confident bunch of lads but we are taking one game at a time.
"Everyone is pulling together this year from the gaffer to the masseurs to the coaching staff."
Doyle will be looking forward to renewing old acquaintances today but is aware there have been major changes in the Hull dressing room since his departure just 12 months ago.
"I have still got a few friends who I keep in touch with but they have changed a lot since I left," he observed. "Unfortunately, they got relegated from the Premier League and they had to lose a few players. This is a different league, a different set-up and you have to go about things in a different way.
"It's just another game, as far as I'm concerned," he added. "And we are looking to kick on in the league. It will be nice to go back and see a few old faces – but I'm determined they will have frowns at the final whistle because we have won the game."
The two clubs are level on points in the Championship table but Barnsley have a game in hand.