City legend Mike Doyle last night lost his brave battle for life, aged 64. The Blues stalwart, renowned for his animosity towards United, suffered liver failure.
His distraught family had been praying for a miracle after doctors at Tameside Hospital warned them he had become very poorly.
Son Scott told the Manchester Evening News: “He was a great footballer, playing hundreds of games for City and England, but to me and the family he was our fantastic dad.”
His other son Grant said: “His consultant said he had seen only two patients pull out of this in 25 years. I took dad to the Sporting Chance clinic four years ago, which helped him get off the booze for 18 months.
“How does it reach this situation? Well, I guess it’s just what players do. He obviously had a few bob and must have got bored.”
Doyle, who played for England on five occasions and was a City captain,made his name in the game with over 500 appearances for the Blues breaking into the all-
conquering Joe Mercer-Malcolm Allison team with other youngsters such as Neil Young, Glyn Pardoe and Colin Bell.
Known for his sometimes unorthodox defensive play and a knack for goal-scoring, Doyle hit the back of the net for City 40 times.
The son of a policeman had a reputation for not backing down either on the pitch or off it.
His hatred for United only increased his popularity among the Blues faithful.
Doyle lived in Ashton-under-Lyne with his wife, Cheryl, to whom he was married for 43 years, and, as well as sons Grant and Scott, he leaves daughters, Stephanie and Natalie and six grandchildren.
Scott said yesterday before his death: “He has been in hospital for seven weeks and we have been told he has badly advanced liver failure and it seems to be an untreatable disease.
“He is a grown man and despite all efforts, including going to the Sporting Chance clinic set up by Tony Adams through the PFA, didn’t change his lifestyle.
“At the end of the day, it’s his own decision but he has lived life to the full. He’s a great person and a fantastic dad.
“He is very poorly indeed and we have all been called three times to say goodbye.
“The staff at Tameside Hospital have been fantastic.
“The nurses have got fond of my dad and we are all grateful for their superb care.”
Scott made headlines himself when he married the daughter of Doyle’s team-mate Pardoe.
As well as regular visits from family members, Pardoe, who was Doyle’s best man, had been to see his former colleague and there were calls from former team-mates Mike Summerbee and Tony Book.
After leaving City in 1978, he had short spells at Stoke, Bolton and Rochdale before becoming a rep for sports equipment company Slazenger.