Exclusive: Tommy Doyle on marking Kevin De Bruyne, a potential Premier League debut, and following Foden's path
There are few things fans of Manchester City enjoy more than seeing youth progress through the ranks and begin to make their mark in the first-team. Even more so for a local lad. Tommy Doyle is a name that has been on the lips of Blues fans for some time now and that does not look set to change anytime soon.
Having made his full City debut in the EFL Cup against Southampton in October, the next step for Doyle is appearing in the Premier League for Pep Guardiola’s side. Both Doyle and Taylor Harwood-Bellis were told to “be ready” for when football returned and so they have, with the former on the bench against both Chelsea and Liverpool.
Doyle believes if he continues to “just work hard, keep a smile on your face and the opportunities will come so hopefully, fingers crossed Southampton I get a go, but we will see.”
He added: “The main thing is doing all the right things which is important when you’re so close you don’t want to try and overdo it which is not what the manager wants. He wants consistency from us."
The 18-year-old midfielder has a renowned family connection with the club and being a blue himself, for some it could be too much to handle. But Doyle is well aware now is not the time to be overwhelmed.
He said: “I spoke to Dinho [Fernandinho] about it because I think everyone knows I’m a City fan so I grew up watching these players, but he said ‘now’s not the time to be starstruck, to go there and think wow it’s Kevin de Bruyne or it’s David Silva you have to be a man about it and go in and train hard and listen to what they say’."
“They’re your teammates as well you have to use them as information and just treat them like players, like mates and that’s important.”
How has Doyle found being in the first-team environment day-in-day-out? “It’s a big difference to the academy. The intensity every day of training is so fast and quick. It’s probably better on game days because you’re with them and not against them!"
“I’ve been marking De Bruyne when we’re against the starting teams and that in itself is a learning experience because personally for me he’s the best midfielder in the world. To have a relationship with all of them where you can ask them for advice and they talk to you like you’re one of them it’s important. They’re so good with us because it’s not always easy going into that environment”, he added.
Doyle, who has represented England at various youth levels up to under-19’s, finds himself in a similar situation as to Phil Foden a couple of years back where he was training with the first-team and finding himself on the bench.
He added: “Obviously I’m close with Phil, me and Phil are always together. Getting advice off him is important which he gives me – to be patient and keep doing what I’m doing.”
It is not just Foden who has helped Doyle adapt either as he continued: “I always speak to Kev about things, David’s brilliant, David’s always giving information and Raz, the list is endless."
“Everybody listens to each other and even me being one of the youngest if I’m saying ‘this might be better for one of the players to stay in that position to receive the ball’, they’d listen which is important and it makes you feel like you’re part of that team”, Doyle said.
Doyle has largely grown through the academy as a goal-scoring box-to-box midfielder, however, in the last year he has been used at times in the EDS but more so in first-team training as a holding midfielder.
“He [Guardiola] knows that I can play attacking and defensive, so sometimes the fine balance of giving me key bits of information for both [positions] – body shape, where to be at the correct time. Number six is more playing passes forward and you set the ball a lot and once you get time to turn, go and attack but there’s so many fine details that we’re all still getting used to.”
And the more accustomed Doyle and others on the cusp of the first-team become with time, it will only stand them in better stead for opportunities, particularly Doyle being so well-rounded across the midfield.
Throughout recent months, Doyle has relished training with fellow youngsters that City fans will now be familiar with. Harwood-Bellis, Cole Palmer, Felix Nmecha, Jayden Braaf and now Liam Delap have joined first-team sessions and the competition is healthy.
Doyle continued: “We always stick together, we always work for each other which is obviously the key to why we’re doing so well. There’s no jealousy if one goes, like me with Liverpool or Taylor with Newcastle, if one goes and one doesn’t, it’s not an issue."
“You want it to be you but the main thing is like I said every day you’ve got to keep working hard, keep focusing and obviously listening and learning because you’re surrounded by world-class players, world-class management staff and the best manager in the world. It’s a place full of information where you’ve got to soak it all up and learn and also let the football take care of itself.”
Doyle’s grounded, humble approach paired with the willingness to succeed should take him far. City fans would love another homegrown, local lad donning the sky blue kit in the league, if and potentially when it is to be Doyle then that name could be spoke and sung about for years to come.
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