MICHAEL Doyle has extra incentive to dash Everton’s Carling Cup dreams after revealing he is a lifelong supporter of their arch-rivals, Liverpool.
But the Sheffield United midfielder, who is expected to start tonight’s second-round tie, insisted he will not allow childhood affiliations to colour his judgement at Goodison Park.
“I’ve followed them since I was little,” Doyle told The Star. “But it’s not going to make me try any harder because I’ll be giving my all anyway.
“I’ve been to Everton’s ground a few times for the derby games and it’s always a terrific atmosphere.
“We’re all looking forward to the match.
“When the draw came out of the hat the boys here were delighted because it’s a really good tie.
“We’ve got a lot of experienced lads in our team and I’m sure the occasion is going to be something that we can thrive on.”
Doyle grew up idolising former Liverpool and England winger John Barnes.
But rather than wreaking havoc among opposition defences with a deft feint or sharp turn of pace, the 30-year-old has a more prosaic role to perform in the visitors’ starting XI after Danny Wilson emphasised the importance of strength and discipline during the pre-match press conference.
By his own admission, Doyle failed to make an impression at Bramall Lane after being signed by Wilson’s predecessor, Micky Adams, midway through the previous campaign.
But the disappointment of relegation has quickly been replaced by a new sense of optimism at the League One club.
United travel to Merseyside unbeaten this term and looking to reach the third round of the competition for the first time since 2008.
“I didn’t do as well as I wanted when I first came here,” Doyle acknowledged.
“But I had a quiet word with myself over the summer that I wanted to do at lot more this time around.
“It was difficult last season because there was a lot going on, although I’m not making an excuse.
“But we’re all enjoying our football now and while I feel as if I’m doing better I still reckon there’s plenty more to come.”
Doyle’s experience could prove crucial against David Moyes’ men.
He was a member of the Leeds team which knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup in 2010 courtesy of Jermaine Beckford’s first-half strike.
That effort helped persuade Everton to recruit the former Chelsea trainee at the end of the season and Doyle said: “We get on well and I’ll be looking forward to having a word with him afterwards.
“Mind you, if we beat them I probably won’t see him at all.
“He’ll be keeping well out of the way because I don’t think they’d be very happy.
“Jermaine is a nice lad and a top-drawer player.”
Two divisions separate United and Everton. But similarities exist behind the scenes.
Wilson, the United manager, has acknowledged the importance of grooming home-grown talent in these financially austere times.
Moyes also ploughs a large portion of his resources into Everton’s youth system.
It will be fascinating to see how the likes of Harry Maguire and Matthew Lowton set about subduing Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley should they lock horns tonight.
“It’s vitally important that we’re bringing our own players through,” said Doyle.
“Everton like to try and do the same.
“We’ve got a few in and around the first team now and it’s good to see.
“The higher up you are the more difficult it can be for some of these lads to breakthrough but they’ve already made a good impression.
“I’m sure there are going to be a few more members of the squad that got to the FA Youth Cup Final (last season) trying to follow them as well.
“It’s a healthy situation to be in.”
Like Wilson, Doyle has no truck with the argument that progress in knockout competition can hamper performances in the league.
Although regaining their Championship status is United’s number one priority, Doyle said: “I’ve heard both sides but we’re in a winning habit and we want to stay in it for as long as we can.”
EVERTON (possible): Howard, Hibbert, Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Neville, Cahill, Rodwell, Arteta, Fellaini, Saha (4-4-2).
UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Jean-Francois, Mendez-Laing, Doyle, Montgomery, Quinn, Slew, Cresswell (4-4-2).
Nigel Miller (County Durham): Averages 4.5 yellow cards per game this season having taken charge of games at Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Leicester and Preston. Six of those cautions came when Notts County visited the City Ground in the first round of the Carling Cup. Miller dismissed Exeter’s Steve Tully at Deepdale last weekend.
Tale Of The Tape
Everton lost their opening game of the Premier League season when they were beaten by QPR last weekend. United travel west having won four and drawn one of their five outings so far, including a penalty shoot-out success at Hartlepool to set up this evening’s tie. Everton beat Huddersfield 5-1 at the same stage of the competition 12 months ago before eventually bowing out to Brentford.