Tommy Doyle: Manchester City on loan signed to be key Sheffield United creator
“High expectations.” Those two words came out of an amusing ‘welcome back’ interview conducted with Sheffield United loanee Tommy Doyle by new team-mate Rhian Brewster on his arrival at the club’s pre-season training camp in Lisbon.
In a second, more formal session, this time conducted by the club’s internal media channel, Doyle is asked about Manchester City’s message after his move to Bramall Lane throughout the season was agreed. “Win”, was the answer.
Clearly, the 20-year-old appreciates the pressure coming on early on after joining a club eager to make another concerted effort to reach the Premier League following May’s heartbreaking penalty shoot-out loss in the play-off.
Say how Doyle will also follow in the footsteps of Morgan Gibbs-White – he might not be an exact replacement for last season’s Player of the Year, but the England Under-21 international’s tenure will also be to score goals and creating chances – and a lot will be expected.
Comfortingly for United, this will be nothing new for their loan signing. He faced similar expectations and pressures throughout his career, thanks to his prodigious talent and being the grandson of two city greats, Glyn Pardoe and Mike Doyle.
Such a stellar footballing pedigree means the spotlight has been on Doyle from an early age and, judging by a career trajectory that includes his Premier League debut at 18 and representing England at all levels of age, from under 16 to under 21, the attention didn’t bother him at all.
This trait was a big attraction for United. That’s why they worked so hard to complete the deal, insisting that City – as they did when Cardiff signed Doyle on loan in January – all interested parties detail their style of play. , where their new signature will fit in, etc.
United’s success in loan development – Dean Henderson made huge strides in his two years with the club while Gibbs-White returned to Molineux as a hot property in May – will also no doubt have helped. this sales pitch.
So, with Doyle now on board and determined to make his mark in South Yorkshire, what can United expect from someone whose seven senior appearances for City have largely been in central midfield but who, according to Pep Guardiola , is better played further forward?
Bramall Lane and Game 44 of last season is a good place to start gauging the impact United’s new signing could have.
Paul Heckingbottom’s side triumphed 1-0 in a tight game against visitors Cardiff, with Iliman Ndiaye breaking the deadlock just after half-time. “It wasn’t too easy,” Doyle said earlier this week when asked about his first visit to Lane. “It was a tough day, but a day I remember well. The fans and the stadium were awesome.
Ndiaye’s header from an inviting Gibbs-White cross remains the lasting memory of the afternoon for United supporters. However, some fans may have been keeping tabs on the Cardiff No.22 after he was linked with a possible loan move the summer before, and they were rewarded with a polished display.
Playing in a central midfield trio rather than the No.10 role he usually filled for Cardiff, Doyle clearly felt attack was the best form of defense against a side with eight wins and three draws in of his previous twelve home outings.
Twice in the first 102 seconds, Doyle picked up a stray ball in midfield and immediately looked for a teammate. Max Watters, the intended target for that first long-range pass, was beaten to the ball by Wes Foderingham while Joel Bagan’s cross after being released down the left by Doyle was easily cut off but intent to make the move things were clear to everyone. have.
He was in equally positive spirits midway through the first half when he picked up a pass from Curtis Nelson in midfield. With neither John Fleck nor Oliver Norwood close enough to worry about, the loanee quickly turned to striker Watters.
The delivery was instant and true, giving Watters every chance of winning a running race with the United defense if the former Crawley man could find the right timing. Instead, Watters went too early and was then flagged offside.
The through ball attempt was one of 41 passes (37 completed) by Doyle in that April 23 encounter, his second highest tally for Cardiff.
His cast and composure, even when he seems in the tightest holes amidst an opposition press, belies his 20s.
Doyle, as you’d expect from someone who has trained under Guardiola since he first came to attention on City’s pre-season tour of Asia in 2019, appreciates the value no only to keep possession, but also to make it count.
His touch card against United also shows someone capable of moving up the pitch, but with an emphasis on drifting to the right.
Doyle failed to take a shot on goal against United, one of five instances where it has happened in 19 appearances for Cardiff, but things could have been very different had team-mate Cody Drameh spotted his run after Foderingham inexplicably went straight for the attacker. Watters amid a nervous United start.
Watters quickly found Drameh, who then jammed the ball under his feet long enough for Jack Robinson to back off. If Drameh, on loan from Leeds, had managed to look up, he would have seen Doyle standing by himself with a clear view of the goal.
After those early scares, United managed to put Doyle together well, albeit with a few scares. Twice in the second half as United advanced in hopes of doubling their lead, the ball snapped towards City’s loanee halfway into Cardiff’s half.
On both occasions, a break was announced. However, Chris Basham saved the day for United in the first place with a perfect tackle. Then, later, Doyle was stopped by a combination of United’s oldest player and Fleck.
At 5ft 8in aerial prowess is not one of Doyle’s strengths but defensively he more than played his part for Cardiff at the Lane, his awareness ensuring a dangerous cross drilled in the first half of Norwood did not achieve its objectives. Instead, Doyle stepped into unguarded space to smash the ball behind for a corner.
Given the big hole left by Gibbs-White in the scoring and creativity stakes – he scored 12 goals and registered 10 assists last season – Doyle should make a big contribution if he plays in the forward role that Guardiola believes best suit him.
His spell at Cardiff is promising – he created 10 Opta-defined ‘big chances’ in his 19 appearances (0.66 per 90 minutes, one of the highest rates in the league).
To put Doyle’s numbers in a united context, Gibbs-White had the club’s best ratio with 19 big chances created in 37 league appearances, followed by Norwood (13 in 46), Billy Sharp (11 in 39) and Sander Berge (six in 33). ).
Heckingbottom attaches great importance to the character. Doyle’s response to a tough first half last season suggests he ticks that box as well.
Having joined Hamburg on August 31, Doyle managed just 150 minutes of playing time in four months with the German club. He’s only made one start and that’s in the cup against Nuremberg.
He played just 71 minutes in six league appearances from the bench in Bundesliga 2. There were no surprises when the loan was cut short in January, allowing Doyle to travel to Cardiff with the promise of regular football.
Amid the disappointment of that stint in Germany, there was at least one moment to savor – a stoppage-time winner against Paderborn in October. It was one of three goals scored by Doyle in the 2021-22 campaign and each underlines why Heckingbottom was so keen on completing the deal.
Take this latest strike in Germany. As Manuel Wintzheimer darted down the left wing before slotting in a low cross aimed at David Kinsombi, Doyle had the presence of mind to take a position on the edge of the box.
This meant that, while Kinsombi took the most deft touches to place the ball in the Englishman’s path, Doyle was perfectly placed to curl a fine finish into the bottom corner of the net.
Doyle’s other two goals came in the EFL for Cardiff: the first a compound right-footed finish at Huddersfield Town and the second a drilled left-footed effort against Stoke City.
Both involved the lender making a perfectly timed late dart into the box. The finish against Carlos Corberan’s promotion chasers came after he held off Huddersfield defender Josh Ruffels for the final flurry of a run that started 30 yards from goal.
Against Stoke, Mark Harris won possession in a wide left zone and then fed the ball back to Bagan, giving Doyle the signal to go.
Bagan, seeing Doyle leave his marker behind, threw a fine pass for the loanee, who fired a left-footed low shot at Jack Bonham.
Set pieces will be another area where Doyle will be looking to make a big impact. Two of the four assists he managed last season for Cardiff and the England Under-21s came from corners – Aden Flint (in Hull) and Marc Guehi (in Batumi against Georgia) were the recipients then that they were heading close.
There was also a delightful cross for James Collins at Bristol City which the defender converted via a header from the ball, plus a slide rule pass for Will Vaulks to score the winner at Reading in April.
Only Ryan Giles (nine) and Joe Ralls (six) had more assists for struggling Cardiff last season, with a fair proportion (nine between the pair) coming from stopped plays. Despite this, Doyle took the lion’s share of corners in this second half of the season, with Ralls and Vaulks largely playing second fiddle.
In total, Doyle took 58 corners for the Welsh club, including 12 deemed “successful” by Opta (20.7%). To put that into context, Norwood had 36 successful corners out of 127 taken last season (28.3%). Fleck’s accuracy was slightly better at 30.1% from 83 turns (25 successful).
In terms of assists from set pieces, Conor Hourihane led the way at Bramall Lane with four. Norwood, Fleck and Gibbs-White have all succeeded each.
Doyle’s first outing in a United shirt will come on Friday night when Heckingbottom’s side take on newly-promoted Portuguese top club Casa Pia.
Each player is expected to be given 45 minutes and fans will be hoping for an early glimpse into why Guardiola felt moved to describe Doyle as possessing a ‘special quality’ after one of his early City appearances.