As a keen fan of American Football, it comes as no surprise that Michael Doyle was glued to the latest NFL game to be staged in England at the weekend.
But for the Sheffield United captain, Dallas Cowboys’ 31-17 win over Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday brought back particularly fond memories as it was held at Wembley, an arena that Doyle himself has twice graced.
And, speaking ahead of tonight’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Walsall, the New England Patriots fan is keen to grace the hallowed turf once more - at least - this season.
“You can never underestimate the importance of playing at Wembley,” Doyle, who captained United in last season’s FA Cup semi-final two seasons after their Play-Off final defeat to Huddersfield in the capital, told The Star.
“You look back to last season when we got to the semis of the FA Cup and to get that far, against the odds, when we’re a third-tier club meant so much to me, and so much to everyone at the club.
“Although we did eventually lose it was a proud defeat against a very good team. Not many United fans have good memories of Wembley but I’d like to think we changed that by having a really good go at a quality side.”
“I saw Wembley again on the TV at the weekend,” Doyle added, “and it brought it all back.
“A lot of people, and a lot of footballers, will never get the chance to experience playing there, and we may never again. So it makes you realise how lucky you are to have had that opportunity.
“Those are memories to cherish but we’ll only be looking forward tonight, and it would be great to get there again.”
United, who enjoyed five wins from their previous six games before a 1-0 defeat to Barnsley earlier this month, make the short journey to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday before returning to cup action next Tuesday, when they host Crewe in an FA Cup replay after their first clash ended goalless at Gresty Road.
“Our recent performances have been as good as they have been for a long time, and so hopefully we can continue that and get the dominant victory that our recent performances deserve,” the United skipper added.
“But at the same time, against Walsall, we have no divine right to just turn up and turn them over just because we’re Sheffield United, with a big following and a proud history.
“They’re a good team - they took four points off us last season and they’ll have no fear, being at home in front of the telly.
“So it should make for a really good game.”
Doyle, a veteran of almost 200 appearances in United colours, also issued a passionate defence of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, which is seen by some supporters as a distraction from the main goal of promotion back to the Championship.
“A lot of people do see it like that,” Doyle conceded.
“But not me.
“The closer you get to the final rounds, the more notice people take and there’s always the chance of a Wembley date.
“But that’s a long way off and it’ll be a tough game. Walsall have never played at Wembley so they won’t roll over, and there’ll be no taking it easy from us, either.
“The gaffer [Nigel Clough] will make sure of that - he aims to win every single game we play in, no matter where it is or who we’re against, or what competition it is in.”
Doyle captained United in their 2-1 defeat at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium on New Year’s Day - but has experienced better times at the stadium: ten years ago, he was part of the Coventry side which demolished their local rivals 6-1 on their home turf.
“I remember it well,” smiled Doyle.
“Walsall had a decent side back then, with Paul Merson in midfield, but they went down to ten men and we took advantage.
“Tonight, we’ll just look to get on with the game and see what happens from there. But a repeat of that game, and that result, would be nice!”