ROY KEANE, as countless team-mates and even the FA of Ireland have found to their cost down the years, can be a hard man to please.
So when Martin O’Neill’s assistant with the Republic heard Colin Doyle planned to follow Friday night’s international appearance against Turkey by turning out for Bradford City fewer than 24 hours later, his response predictably bordered on the dismissive.
“Roy being Roy, he said ’keepers don’t do anything so he thought it would be easy,” revealed Doyle to The Yorkshire Post with a smile after helping the Bantams end a 10-game winless run in League One on the back of just two hours sleep and seven hours in the air.
Doyle’s City team-mates were a tad more appreciative of the 32-year-old’s willingness to push himself to the edge of physical exhaustion as was underlined by every single member of Simon Grayson’s team searching out the Irishman at the final whistle.
With good cause, too, as he had played a key role in the Yorkshire club keeping a clean sheet for the first time since late November.
His 35th-minute save to deny Conor Wilkinson kept a Bantams side horribly short of confidence on level terms.
It also helped pave the way for Dominic Poleon to give Bradford an early second-half lead that they were able to retain despite coming under intense pressure during the closing stages.
By then Doyle admits his legs had “seized up and I was unable to move”. Nevertheless, he continued to marshall a Bradford back line in impressive fashion to end the long, long wait for victory.
“I only had about two hours sleep,” said the Irishman, whose appearance in Antalya was his first for Ireland in more than a decade.
“We didn’t leave Turkey until 1.30am (on Saturday), though they are three hours ahead. Then we stopped at Zagreb to refuel and had an hour there. Maybe I should go to Zagreb every week if it means a clean sheet.
“Eventually, we got back into Dublin at 5am. I went to a hotel near the airport for breakfast and then flew out again at 8am straight into Leeds. I can’t sleep much on planes, but I managed a bit at home. I dropped off about 10am and set my alarm for 11.15am.
“It was my decision to play. I’d had a call from Seamus (McDonagh), the Ireland goalkeeping coach, to say the other two ’keepers were pulling out and I was probably going to play a part against Turkey.
“I found out for definite the day before. So I phoned ‘Banksy’ (Steve Banks, City’s goalkeeping coach) and said I would give it a go because I would be buzzing from the adrenalin.
“The Irish lads didn’t believe me. They were asking, ‘Seriously, you’re playing again?’ But I really wanted to play and help us get the win we so badly needed.”
Doyle’s efforts were made all the more impressive by the pudding-like nature of the Valley Parade pitch.
No goalkeeper can afford to let his concentration levels drop for fear of being left red-faced by one of the Football League’s most unreliable surfaces.
A bad bobble here or a miscued clearance there can be the difference between claiming all three points or ending the afternoon empty-handed, as Doyle readily appreciates.
Ironically considering the problems that the pitch has caused Bradford this term, it did actually play an unwitting role in Gillingham wasting a gilt-edged opportunity to equalise at the finish.
Tom Eaves, whose introduction from the bench had brought a new dimension to the visitors’ attacking play, seemed to have the simple task of converting a cross from a couple of yards out only for the ball to suddenly die on the substitute. This lack of bounce meant Eaves’s connection was less than pure and his shot squirmed agonisingly wide as a result.
“Mick (Doyle, the club’s groundsman) has done well for us there,” quipped the City goalkeeper about the stoppage-time miss. “It is about time he did something right.
“No, seriously, it was good to get that bit of luck that we maybe haven’t been getting lately.
“There was another cross a few minutes earlier that I should have come for, but I decided to drop off because my legs were cramping up. I probably wouldn’t have made it.
“Gillingham ended up with a free-kick because of that, but the lads got the blocks in we needed.”
An unwanted club record would have been set had City’s winless run been extended by the Gills. The previous longest period without a league victory had been 84 days, set early in the 1948-49 season that ended with Bradford having to apply for re-election after finishing rock bottom of Division Three (North).
Poleon’s sweet strike meant this term’s run was finally ended two days short of that record. It was a strike worthy of clinching promotion, never mind earning a first maximum points haul since New Year’s Day.
Collecting a pass from Stephen Warnock, Poleon spun quickly before drilling a shot past Tomas Holy from 25 yards.
Poleon should have added a second 16 minutes from time, but the one-time Leeds United junior got himself in such a tangle when meeting Alex Gilliead’s cross that the ball struck his heel before bouncing harmlessly back out of the penalty area.
Thanks to that late rearguard action, however, the miss did not prove costly as Doyle was able to end City’s 19-game wait for a clean sheet before getting some long overdue shut-eye.