One of FC Isle of Man’s main objectives is to provide opportunities for Manx footballers to make a career in the game.
At present we have three local lads playing professionally and one of them is former St Mary’s stalwart and current Memphis 901 star Liam Doyle. With the US soccer now in its offseason, Liam took the opportunity for a whirlwind visit to the island so we grabbed a chance to sit down for a coffee and a natter with him.
It has been a bit of an interesting last 12 months for Liam in more ways than one. A year ago this month he married his collegiate sweetheart Brittany and then started the 2019 pre-season as captain of his then club, Nashville FC of the United Soccer League Championship (USLC). The captaincy was a reward perhaps for what had been a strong 2018 season with the Tennessee side.
However, nothing is certain in the game of football, and by mid-season Liam was on the move cross-state to Memphis.
In fact, moving around is not something completely alien to Liam as he has been on the football carousel for most of the last ten years, becoming somewhat of a footballing nomad.
I went to Myerscough College when I was 16 and I was there for two years. After that I was back on the Island for two years and at that time, I was just not sure what I wanted to do. Then I looked at the path (fellow Manx footballers) Jack (McVey), Alex (Harrison), Connor (Doyle) and Antony (Moore) were on in the US Collegiate system and I decided that was a track that I wanted to follow.
So, I just took a chance and started at Junior College level. I had two good years at Cincinnati State Technical and ended up transferring to one of the best universities in America (Ohio State aka The Buckeyes) for the last two years of my college career.
It was during these two seasons with the Buckeyes that Liam started to take his game to another level. At the end of his final season in Ohio, Liam was eligible for the Major League Soccer draft and he was subsequently signed by DC United in 2016. Since then he’s been a fully pledged professional and has just completed his fourth season as a ‘pro’.
While being drafted by DC United, Wayne Rooney’s recent home, sounds glamorous, Liam’s experiences in the US capital city weren’t easy.
I spent three weeks in pre-season in DC at the time. The big drawback for me was that I was classed as an international player and the league rules limit clubs to just seven non-US players on the squad. When I think back maybe if I’d had my green card at that time then I might of have had a better chance of progressing in Washington.
Despite the initial drawbacks of his DC days, Liam wasn’t giving up and he was quickly snapped up by Harrisburg City Islanders (now Penn FC) in Pennsylvania to play in the USLC (one tier down from MLS). However, at seasons’ end Doyle was on the move again, this time to the state of Kansas after signing for the MLS’s Sporting Kansas feeder club Swope Park Rangers.
By now, having acquired the much sort after Green Card, Liam was finally classed as a domestic player and his career started on an upward trail.
Well, I got my Green Card at the end of my first professional year (before transferring to Swope Rangers). I was just getting more and more opportunities and more doors just started to open for me because I was improving as a player, and to cap it all off we actually won our Conference Championship that season.
Another season and more moves were on the horizon as Doyle’s reputation was burgeoning. In the off season of 2017, Liam was signed by, USLC expansion club, Nashville FC and as we’ve already covered, he now finds himself in Memphis having signed the longest pro-contract of his career, which will see him resident in Elvis’ hometown for another three seasons.
So, after reflecting on the last decade of being on the football carousel, what does Liam believe to be the highlights of his career to date?
I think my first year at Nashville was a good year. I was a voted Defender of the Year and we made the playoffs as an expansion club, which was a pretty big deal. Winning the Conference Championship when I was in Kansas (with Swope), would have to be the highlight in terms of medals, but individually I was a better player at Nashville and now at Memphis.
Despite being away from the island for the majority of the last decade, Liam stays very close to the Manx game and is incredibly passionate about the sport’s progression here. He was very enthusiastic to hear of FC Isle of Man’s plans.
I was excited (when I heard) because it’s been spoken about for so many years, but nothing actually happened. Now obviously, it sounds as if the people involved have put together a proper plan and business strategy and it already looks as if it has taken major steps forward and it looks like it’s really happening. So it’s exciting. It’s obviously long overdue and I think that when the team starts actually playing in an English league, it’ll be great.
What if something like FC Isle of Man had been around when he first came back from Myerscough all those years ago, would it have affected his footballing aspirations?
I think it would have been harder for me to leave. It would have been an opportunity to stay here and play football at a higher level. However, for me at the time, I needed to get away because I was overweight and I wasn’t as fit as I could be.
So while being very honest in explaining his own motivations to leave the Isle of Man at the time, Liam can see the value in an island based team playing regularly in an English league.
Obviously, because the team will be playing more in the UK, it’s more competitive which will improve each player’s standard and there’ll be more people watching those players.
If the team gets a couple of promotions and someone has had a standout year, there’s no reason (a player) can’t jump up two or three leagues and that creates the pathway for other players to follow behind as well. Everyone’s looking for the next Jamie Vardy so who knows.
As our conversation draws to a close, we were interested in understanding, after everything Liam has experienced and learnt over his career, what advice would he offer to young players, especially those on the Isle of Man, and what attributes do they need to have to develop?
I think the biggest thing will be commitment. You can be as good as you want or as talented as you want, but if you’re not committed you’re not giving yourself the best chance to succeed.
You have to live and breathe it, you have to do extra training and you have to do extra work and you have to ride the downsides and bounce back. If you’re not in team or squad keep working hard, stay fit, stay injury free, you’ll get your chance. And when that happens you just have to take that chance.
Liam is also keep to stress that as well as the commitment there are a lot of sacrifices you need to make if you’re serious about progressing in the game.
When I went to America I switched on in terms of just stuff (attributes) I needed to do. And I also realised the things I didn’t need to do. Ohio State is one of the biggest universities in the world and there were a lot of distractions. I could’ve been out every night drinking and stuff, but I was just so boring. However, I knew what I wanted to do, I knew I was going into the (MLS) draft in January and I knew to do that I had to have a good season so I couldn’t afford any of those distractions.
I mean, Brittany will tell you, we’d go out for meals and I just wouldn’t eat or drink certain things or I just wouldn’t go out at all. She’d be going out with friends and she’d always ask whether I wanted to go, but I always said ‘no’ I was so boring for about four years.
The flying visit ‘home’ is nearly over and it’s now back to his Memphis home and as well as preparing for a new season Liam and Brittany have another exciting event to look forward to.
Yeah, we have a baby boy due January 22nd, so we’re really looking forward to that. We’ve also got our own house now as well, so life’s changed a little bit.
But for Liam, football will also be a constant and we wish him and Brittany all the best for the future.