Solihull Barons’ boss Perry Doyle has confirmed he has retired from playing to concentrate on his coaching role with the club.
Doyle made his senior playing debut for the Barons in the late 1980s, before joining Milton Keynes Kings in 1991.
After brief spells with Bracknell Bees and Chelmsford Chieftains, Doyle’s big break came in 1993 when he signed for Nottingham Panthers.
He moved to Sheffield Steelers the following summer for two trophy-laden seasons, before returning to Solihull in 1996.
Doyle remembers those early years with fondness and admits he was helped along the way by some of the finest names ever to grace the British game.
“My mum got me into hockey to try and keep me off the streets and out of trouble,” said Doyle.
“I progressed into the senior team and ended up playing alongside the likes of Brent Sapergia, Ron Shudra, Chuck Taylor and Jere Gillis.
“All of them went out of their way to help me as much as they could – they were brilliant people to learn from.
“I also came across Ken Taggart at Milton Keynes – he’s another who was great with me and we got on really well.
“Lots of people thought my move to the Panthers was strange. Mike Blaisdell signed me despite us having a punch-up after a game when he was at Durham, but everything was fine when I played for him.”
Doyle’s move to the Steelers saw him come into contact with the likes of Alex Dampier, Ken Priestlay and Tony Hand, but it was Mike O’Connor who made the biggest impression on him.
“Playing alongside those players was a wonderful experience, but I was particularly close to Mike,” said Doyle.
“He was always there to teach me to look after myself and we’re still really good friends now. He’s always there if I need any advice.”
A serious back injury in 2000 ended his top flight playing career, but he returned to the game with Barons during the 2012/13 season and went on to help the club secure promotion to NIHL North Moralee D1 in 2015.
He took over as Player/Coach before the start of last season, guiding the Barons to third in the league and a place in the end-of-season play-off final.
With teams around the league strengthening their squads, Doyle has now taken a step back from playing to concentrate on coaching – a decision he believes will help his team.
“Seeing your players progress in the game is really rewarding,” said Doyle.
“Last season we missed a leader on the bench. Our team needs someone to get a grip of them from time-to-time, so this will benefit them.
“We’ve got players coming though who can step up and it’s time for me to help them do that.
“I know the fans want to see the likes of me and Andre (Payette) have a scrap every time we play, but it’s not as if we’re being paid loads of money to knock lumps out of each other so it’s time to step aside.”
Doyle admits he’s grateful to the players and coaches who helped him during his career, but he reserved his final thanks for a quartet of people he feels have really supported him along the way.
“I was coached by current Steelers boss Paul Thompson many years ago – he’d agree that he’s a better coach now than he was then!” said Doyle.
“He’s always there now to lend a hand and offer advice if I need it and it’s great to be able to run things by him.
“Dave Simms has always been great with me too – getting me into clubs, that sort of thing. We’ve been through a lot together and I’m happy to call him a friend.
“Then there’s Rob Plaister. He gave me a job when other people might have shied away – he’s a great guy.
“Most importantly there’s my wife Jo – we recently got married and she really is my rock. She’s always there for me, so life’s really good at the moment.”
(Image permission: Keith & Jenny Davies)