FC Isle of Man crest

Liam Doyle – Stateside Support

One aspect that continues to amaze us all at FC Isle of Man, is the following the club has gathered in such a relatively brief period of time, not just on the island and especially in the stadium itself, but also the following we have worldwide.

We have great interest in Europe, especially in Italy and Greece and we also have fans supporter’s groups in Australia and Singapore. However, perhaps our greatest overseas supporter is a professional football player himself.

Following a successful collegiate career in the United States, Manxman, and former Island player, Liam Doyle has just concluded his fifth year in the United States Soccer League (one level below the Major Soccer League). Despite being stateside for nine years, Liam’s enthusiasm for the Manx football scene is as vibrant as ever, and he has been a keen follower of FC Isle of Man since our project was conceived in 2019.

Liam was back on the island for the first time in two years during the recent Holiday period, and as well as watching a couple of games, he also trained with the squad and even delivered a coaching session (as part of this USSF Coaching qualifications he is undertaking in his offseason). The Editor caught up with him to chat about his thoughts on all things Ravens.

Despite living, studying, and playing in the US for a decade you have always kept a very, very close eye on Manx football and you’ve been especially interested in the concept that is FC Isle of Man. We did a piece a couple of years ago for the club’s website FC Isle of Man and you expressed at the time that you thought it would be good for the game here on the Island. You have now witnessed a couple of matches while you’ve been back on the island so what are your impressions of FC Isle of Man, and the club in general?

Liam Doyle:
Yes. I think it has been great. I was at the Bowl on Monday (for the New Mills game) and there were 1,700 people there, so obviously, the club is getting good backing. Regardless of the results, the overall concept and idea is fantastic, and I think it’s given a real platform for Manx players to showcase their talents at a higher level and has given the younger players something to aim and inspire for.

Obviously the on-field results and getting promotion will help overall. But the overall concept is so good and hopefully it will carry on for years to come.

Ed: You’ve obviously got some ex-teammates who are part of the club and playing substantial roles in the team. How do you think they are progressing as players?

LD: Yes, there’s still some of the old guard hanging about (laughs). Obviously, Jack (McVey) is the captain at the minute with Frank (Jones) out. I thought he was man of the match last week (against New Mills). It’s great to see him playing so well.  I played in Island under 18s and senior Island teams with Lee Gale and Chris Cannell before I went off to the States and they are performing at a high standard too.

And then it’s good to see the likes of Sean Doyle establishing himself. He is one of the best strikers in the league. He looks as if he’s developed a lot, and he looks like he could play a few levels higher so that’s good for the team.

Ed:  And when you compare it to the standards that FC Isle of Man are now playing, compared to what you remember from when you played here yourself, do you see the level as a step up?

LD: There was a lot of talented players when I was coming through, and while some of those players are still prominent now as I mentioned earlier it’s good to see some of the younger players stepping up and proving they have what it takes. It’s always hard to compare eras, but I think the step up is evident, because if you don’t play well every week in the English league system, you’ll get beat.

Gone are the days where you can turn up to a team unorganized on the Isle of Man and just expect perhaps the skilful players to win you the game. I think if the whole team’s not on their game, then they are more likely to lose. That is why preparation and organization is so important and the step up is a massive learning curve. You have got to be ready to play every week.

Ed: Nearly every player we’ve profiled for this publication have said, one of the big differences they’ve noticed is, and you’ve alluded to it, is that when you play in the Manx League, everyone knows each other. They all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

But for our players playing against new opposition week after week, they have no idea about them. They don’t know who’s strong. They don’t know who’s weak. Obviously, that works both ways, but our players seem to have adapted well because we’re lying fifth in the league at the moment and we’re in those playoff positions. Can you see that point of view?

LD: Yeah, but you’re now starting to play teams for a second time, so you’ll hopefully know what they’re about. Although that works in reverse too.

You must be clever and learn, as well, because take New Mills for instance, the first time, you played against them they were difficult to play against. They’re clever and experienced, and that is part of the game, too and its those little tricks of the trade the FC Isle of Man players must learn too. I am talking about knowing when to slow the game down and things like that.

I think everything in football’s a skill, and those little tricks are a skill too, but it seems FC Isle of Man are now learning those as well, how to manage games, be clever and use the talent, which will make everyone a stronger team.

Ed: You mentioned earlier about the crowd before the last week’s game. Our lads, and to be fair most of the opposition teams, are not used to playing in front of so many spectators. What did you make of the fact that the team are playing in front of so many people every week and how did you find the atmosphere?

LD: I think it is great. It is good to see. You’ve got people from all over the island that have been at different clubs all their lives, now having an opportunity to supporting one common team.

If the team can make the playoffs, as well, and there will be a big push to fill in the Bowl. From talking to the lads, they all see it (the crowd) as a tremendous help. I know from my own experiences there is nothing better than playing in front of a crowd, especially when they’re supporting you!

I have said before that I don’t think there’s anything better than having a good football team on the island, and something for the whole community and people who love football to get behind them. I would encourage everyone to keep supporting them and backing the team.