DOYLE RELISHING DERBY EXPERIENCE
Young American forward Conor Doyle says that he is making the most of his time at English club Derby County and hopes to continue improving with each match.
Doyle's whirlwind journey to the Championship club started with a trial back in July where he impressed the club brass enough to earn a contract offer.
Not only did he do enough to earn a spot on the roster, but he has gone on to start the last two matches for head coach Nigel Clough who now even tabs Doyle to take corner kicks.
For Doyle, playing in one of the most competitive leagues in Europe was daunting at first, but now he feels that he has gotten his feet wet and will be opportunistic every time he sees the field.
"Obviously it's been a little overwhelming," Doyle recently told YA. "I wasn't expecting everything to happen this fast, like starting the last two games, so it has taken me time to settle in but now everything is feeling a little more normal."
At this time last year, the native of Dallas was in his senior year at McKinney Boyd High School in the Metroplex. He graduated early and then spent the spring semester at Creighton University, his intended destination to play college soccer.
However once he went on trial at Derby, his college plans changed and when the club extended him an offer, Doyle knew it was time for him to start his professional career.
"This was the chance of a lifetime and I had to take it," affirmed Doyle. "I know that I am not getting to have the college experience, and it was hard because I made some good friends at Creighton, but playing in England has always been my dream."
Doyle also adds that the transition from being a high school student to living and playing professionally overseas has been made easier by his teammates who have warmly embraced the Texan.
"It's been quite easy really," he said of making friends with his new teammates. "Everyone has been very welcoming. We joke that I'm young enough to be one of the guys' kids and it is strange to have teammates who have wives and a family life, but there are also some young guys here and everyone has been really awesome."
Doyle was also given a boost shortly after arriving to Derby by another American who seemingly came out of nowhere and landed a spot on a team in the Championship.
"I got a Facebook message from Jay DeMerit when I got here," he said of the US international. "It was great to hear from him. He basically said that I know what's like to feel alone and in a different environment but to trsut in myself and I would be OK."
One aspect that has contributed to Doyle's early success is the guidance he has received from Clough. Doyle feels that playing for the former Nottingham Forest legend has given him the confidence needed to hone his game.
"Nigel is well known for bringing up younger players so he's the perfect coach to be playing for," he said of Clough. "As a player, I like to keep a one-two touch and play simple and avoid mistakes. I was maybe a little conservative when I first started here but now I feel like I'm trying new things.
"I've learned quite a bit and now I'm not worrying about my mistakes which gives me the confidence to believe in myself. I think when I first came in I was a little lazy and Nigel said he doesn't like lazy players so I haven't been lazy ever since. I just go out there and run as hard as I can on every ball."
What is probably most surprising to US Soccer fans is that Doyle has never been called to any US youth national team camp and with next year's U-20 World Cup in Colombia on the horizon, it would reason that head coach Thomas Rongen would want to take a hard look at bringing Doyle onto the squad.
Although he has been passed over for previous camps, Doyle is quick to state that he would be honored to represent the US next summer in South America.
"Of course I'd love to play ay the [U-20] World Cup next summer," he emphatically said. "Who wouldn't want to play for their country at a World Cup? I'd love for it to happen."
He goes on to say that any previous snubs from US youth national teams only gave him more incentive to work harder.
"I guess you could say that I used that as motivation," elaborated Doyle. "My only focus was on playing for my club team so I didn't think about it much so it wasn't too disappointing for me."
However should US Soccer officials not reach out to Doyle, the son of a former indoor soccer star and Irishman says he would be open to playing for the Emerald Isle's national team.
"If the US didn't call, then yes, I would consider playing for Ireland," he stated.
The influence that the elder Doyle has had on his son is palpable. David Doyle spent 17 years playing professional indoor soccer, including a 13 year stint with the Dallas Sidekicks in the now-defunct Major Indoor Soccer League.
The 18 year old Doyle credits his father with being a tremendous influence in his youth career and someone who allowed his son to make mistakes in order to better learn and appreciate the game.
"Because of [my dad], I've always wanted to play soccer," he explains. "I went to practice with him every day when I was a kid. At first I always wanted to be a Sidekick but then obviously that wasn't going to happen so I then decided I wanted to play in Europe.
"My dad has been an unbelievable influence and has always allowed me to be my own player. He only gives me advice when I ask for it. He's definitely not an obsessive soccer parent. We both love the game and he knows when he needs to back off and let me find my way."
Not only has Doyle's father help nurture a supportive environment, but his mother has also played an integral role in his development as a mature young man.
"My mom and my dad have always been open to my brother and I trying new things and have supported us 100%," concluded Doyle. "My brother is a big baseball player and really didn't want to play soccer. People would ask my dad, ĎAre you ok that your son isn't playing soccer?' And he would say, 'Sure. Whatever he wants to do, he can do.' They have never pushed us to do anything and have always encouraged me to do different things. It's nice to have that support from your parents"
Doyle and Derby will return to action on September 11th when they face Sheffield United.