Goalkeeper Colin Doyle is relishing the chance to continue developing as a ball-playing goalkeeper at Hearts as the Tynecastle side place extra emphasis on building from the back this season.
The 33-year-old Irish internationalist this week signed a two-year contract with the Edinburgh club after leaving Bradford City following two years as their number one.
Having spent the majority of his career focusing on the basics of goalkeeping such as shot-stopping and commanding his penalty area, Doyle has enjoyed adapting his game in recent seasons to become a goalkeeper comfortable with the ball at his feet and able to spark attacks. He is pleased that his new team, who struggled to establish a clear playing style last season amid a series of obstacles, are intent on accommodating his new-found desire to build from the back-line as opposed to going long and direct.
“When I came here on Monday, the manager showed me clips from my time at Bradford, highlighting things he wanted me to do,” said Doyle. “He told me he wants me to play out to feet, which, predominantly at Bradford under Stuart McCall, we ended up doing. I enjoyed that because in previous years, it tended to just be get the ball and kick it as far as I can. I’m excited about playing this way.
“The art of goalkeeping is probably changing now. I did a B licence in the summer and I was asked the question: if you were a manager, what type of keeper would you look for? Would you look for a keeper who comes for crosses and saves some shots or one who doesn’t comes for crosses, but is really good with his feet? You have all those dilemmas now. Look at Ederson at Man City and the new lad (Alisson) who has just gone to Liverpool. They are phenomenal with the ball at their feet. Obviously they can save a ball as well, but Ederson probably doesn’t come off his line as much as a lot of them. As a keeper playing with the ball at his feet, I don’t think I’ve seen better. The art of goalkeeping is changing, football is developing all the time and moving forward.
“I’m not too bad with my feet. I had to work on it a bit because, before that, it was sort of, put the ball down, take a goal kick and just squeeze up. I enjoyed playing at Bradford. We tried to get the full-backs out, get the centre-halves on it, the midfield on it. I got used to it quite quickly and I quite enjoyed it.”
After forcing his way back into the Ireland set-up during his two years with Bradford, the former Birmingham City and Blackpool goalkeeper was psyched for extending his stay with the English League One side. However, after being unable to reach an agreement with Yorkshire club, he was delighted when Hearts got in touch earlier this month to offer him the chance to compete with Zdenek Zlamal for the No.1 jersey at Tynecastle. “I came up on Monday but I heard of Hearts’ interest just over a week ago,” said Doyle. “There was contact with my agent and he asked if I’d like to come. We came up on Monday to have a look at the facilities and they were top class. Once I saw that, it was an easy decision. I’ve no grudges against Bradford, I had two fantastic years there.
“They said they’d offer me a deal, and we put something to them, which agents sometimes do, and we just never heard back, no negotiations, nothing. We made a few phone calls to try and get in contact with them. I wasn’t stressing or worrying about it because I thought it would be sorted. But a few days before pre-season started I was on holiday and my agent got a phone call to say they were going down a different route. It’s part of football and you have to accept it and move on.
“I had a couple of offers down south, but once this came up it was a no-brainer really. Playing in the Premiership, you’ve got big games here against Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Aberdeen – it’s big teams, big crowds and it’s what I want to play in front of.”
Doyle finished last season by playing three games for Ireland – against France, USA and Celtic, when he appeared in Scott Brown’s testimonial at Celtic Park. “It was a good atmosphere and it was the first time I had been to Celtic Park to play, I’ll certainly looking forward to going back,” he said of a venue Hearts are due to visit in three weeks’ time.
Doyle’s move to Hearts has reunited him with two former colleagues, Uche Ikpeazu and Olly Lee. “I know Uche from Blackpool and Olly from Birmingham,” said the goalkeeper. “When I came in on Monday to look round, I didn’t meet anyone other than Olly and Uche. I don’t know whether that was set up by the gaffer to convince me to sign!”