A man who has certainly divided opinion, if a scan through social media is anything to go by.
The main signing of the January transfer window, and the man touted to keep our Football League status, he made the perfect start by led by example as Notts won 7 points in his first 3 games, all against promotion chasing sides.
We all know what happened after that and, in my opinion, he tried to do too much, taking all the set pieces (not particularly well, either) and not giving other players the space to operate.
At the time, I would have been quite happy if he’d left during the summer. After all, why would we want a 38 year old who had hardly set League 2 alight in the final 14 games of a relegation season.
I felt the same after the opening game of this season when an indifferent performance was capped by a thoughtless sending off as we were trying to get back into the game at Eastleigh - a straight red, 3 match ban, lack of discipline.
With hindsight, I think that could be a turning point in his spell with us. Let’s face it, as a 38 year old, it won’t be a long playing spell but for me, he would now be the first name on the team sheet.
Since coming back, it seems to me as if he has accepted he can’t do everything and is happy to be the conductor of the band.
We have some excellent players for this level, and Doyle’s experience is vital. We hear about ‘game management’. Well this guy knows how to do that. As captain, he’s often in the ref’s ear to make sure he knows what’s going on and to stand up for his team mates against what may appear over aggressive treatment.
His work rate is still second to none, but Ardley may need to manage his load over the season, although seeing red for the second time and getting a 4 match ban may actually help as he’s already sat out 7 games. And it may just have hit home to Doyle that he has a limited career and can’t afford to sit out too many more games.
With over 700 appearances to his name in professional football, young players coming through can’t fail to learn from him and in the absence of Jim O’Brien, Doyle’s performances seem to have got better and better as he takes on the responsibility of being Ardley’s voice on the field.
His influence was hugely noticeable in the recent game against Dagenham & Redbridge when he returned from suspension, coming off the bench as the visitors were taking control of the game and our one goal lead looked precarious.
We were looking hesitant at the back, over-playing and inviting trouble. Doyle immediately took charge and there was a noticeable increase in energy from the moment he entered the field.
His first thought was to get the ball away from our goal as quickly as possible, always into areas where the visiting defence had to turn and chase thereby giving us time to reorganise, and often giving us chance to launch a counter attack.
What happens next? I’m sure he has some influence on the training pitch now, but is coaching something for him in due course?
And, to contrast with my feelings last summer, I’d be sorry to see him leave.