AFTER spending last season at a club where supporters were permanently at war with the board, Colin Doyle admits the recent concerns over Bradford City’s run of four consecutive draws had to be put into perspective.
The quartet of stalemates, which included three home games, did hurt City’s promotion push, as they went from snapping at the heels of the top two to being in danger of dropping out of the play-off places.
Kicking off 2017 with victory at Northampton Town ensured that did not happen but, nevertheless, there was no disguising the angst among supporters at taking those four points from as many games at a time when the goals had also dried up.
Doyle, however, is able to see the bigger picture after spending 2015-16 at Blackpool, who suffered a second consecutive relegation at the end of a chaotic campaign which brought near weekly protests against owner Karl Oyston.
“Four draws doesn’t seem as big an issue, no,” said the 31-year-old when asked about City’s form in December compared to the travails at Bloomfield Road last term.
“Obviously, we were disappointed not to get at least a couple of wins during that run. We want to be fighting near the top and four draws hurt us. Two of them were probably fair, against Scunthorpe and Charlton, but we should have won the other two. That was disappointing.
“Looking at the bigger picture, though, a lot more things can go wrong at a club than drawing four games in a row.
“Life at Blackpool was a lot harder than that. On a personal level, I enjoyed my time there. I hadn’t played much in 2014-15 (at Birmingham City) so playing every week for Blackpool was good.
“But, obviously, there was a lot going on at the club. The fans had big issues with the owners. As players, we were not involved in that, but it obviously affected the crowds and atmosphere.
“The fans had their reasons. We tried not to let it affect us, we gave it everything regardless of whether the crowd was 10,000 or 1,000.
“We did keep thinking we could get out of trouble. But, in the end, we couldn’t. That came as a big blow. No one wants to get relegated, but we did.”
Blackpool’s slide into League Two was another heavy body blow for a club who as recently as 2012 had competed in the Championship play-off final.
But the Seasiders’ loss was Bradford’s gain, thanks to a clause in the two-year contract Doyle had signed at Bloomfield Road in the summer of 2015 that allowed the Cork-born goalkeeper to leave for a token £1.
New Bantams manager Stuart McCall identified Doyle, who had performed well in League One despite Blackpool’s relegation, early in his reign. The Irishman has since rewarded that faith, his 27 appearances for City having yielded 10 clean sheets and just 23 goals for the opposition.
This record has been a major factor in Bradford having spent all but the opening fortnight in the top six despite a goal-scoring record that is inferior to all their promotion rivals.
No wonder, therefore, Doyle is happy with life at Valley Parade after spending much of his career as back-up goalkeeper.
“Being first-choice has been great,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “I had it last season at Blackpool, but I have had to bide my time in the past. I am loving playing every week, to be fair.
“Playing week-in and week-out means I can’t wait for Saturday to come round. Or Tuesday in midweek if we have a game.
“This is what I have wanted to do for a long time. It can be hard. You have to have the right mentality and you train as hard as you can. But there is something missing (when you do not play).”
An illustration of how patient the 31-year-old has had to be is that last Monday’s victory at Northampton Town was only his 101st league start in a career that began at Birmingham as a teenager.
He spent 12 years at St Andrews, albeit with several loan spells away from the club. Most of those were as understudy to a succession of goalkeepers that included future England international Joe Hart.
“I played in cup games (at Birmingham), but that is not the same because you need two or three games to get into the feel of things,” he added. “You can play all the reserve games in the world, but it is a totally different atmosphere surrounding things.
“There is not the same adrenalin. For any youngsters thinking, ‘I am at a big club and am happy to play reserve team football’, I wouldn’t recommend it.
“Get out to a lower league team and get some experience of playing week-in and week-out. It will be better than Under-21s football.
“At Birmingham, I might have been playing this weekend in the third round. But I am much happier now. I played regularly last season, but then had it in my contract that I could leave if Blackpool were relegated.
“Luckily enough, Bradford came in for me and I am really enjoying it here.”
City host Chesterfield today looking to build on that win at Northampton, only their second in eight league outings.
“The season is shaping up well,” added Doyle. “Coming here last summer as one of quite a few new signings, plus there being a new management team, we had to hit the ground running.
“I would say, halfway through and with us fifth in the league, we would probably have snapped your hands off if offered this position. Beating Northampton after those draws was pleasing, but we need to build on it with another three points.”