Christian Doidge: From police force to Hibs strike force for Welsh late developer

By Jordan ElgottBBC Scotland
Christian Doidge celebrates scoring for Hibs
Christian Doidge has scored eight goals in his past 11 appearances

Christian Doidge has worked on a building site. He has waited on tables in his local pub. He's been a delivery driver. He's worked in a sports shop. He's even served in the police force.

A member of Hibernian's staff reckons he's had more jobs than the whole of their first-team squad put together. He's only 27.

"I've worked my whole life, I like going to work every day and putting a shift in," Doidge says emphatically. "That's just the way I was brought up and it's never going to change."

But things have changed. Those jobs are behind him. He is now tasked with leading the line at Easter Road, a job he's recently been making light work of. Doidge is Hibs' top goalscorer.

He could become the first Welshman to represent his country at both football and basketball. He's certainly knocking on the door.

That's despite being released by both Southampton and Bristol Rovers as a youngster, labelled "too short" to be a centre-forward.

"I remember my mum always saying to me, 'this summer you're going to grow' and eventually it did happen," he recalls.

"I was probably about 5ft 6 and grew to the height I am now, but I was without a club."

Doidge went back to school, completed sixth form and carried on working. There were failed interviews at phone shops, time spent in London fitting Astroturf pitches and even a European Basketball Championships in Malta for the Welshman now standing 6ft 1in. But football was always there, even if it did not seem a viable source of income.

Christian Doidge (centre) celebrates helping Forest Green Rovers reach the Football League
Doidge (centre) helped Forest Green Rovers win promotion to the Football League

"I wasn't trying to have a career in football," he says. "I was just playing because it was fun with my friends.

"Coming from the reserve league and the Welsh second division for Croesyceiliog, I never even thought I'd play in the Welsh Premier League.

"I just couldn't stop scoring goals and clubs became interested. I went to Carmarthen Town from Barry Town and I was just gobsmacked at how it had happened to me."

Though Doidge looks back on his time in Wales with great fondness, he was a long way from where he currently is and it did not look like he would ever get there. He was back enjoying his football again, but it was not his primary focus.

He had just completed eight months of training to join the police force, having passed maths and English examinations and he was getting used to patrolling the streets of Pentwyn. But his agent sat him down and said: "I feel you've got enough to become a professional footballer."

That was when things started to change. Dagenham and Redbridge invited him on trial, but the logistics of spending a week away from home almost put the opportunity in doubt.

"I had to take a week off work," he says. "I spoke to my sergeant at the time - it was last-minute annual leave, but her husband was a professional rugby player, so she realised what a great opportunity it was for me.

"I was really lucky. She basically kicked me out the door in the end. I ran around like a madman because I realised the opportunity I had.

"I did well in the two games and they wanted to sign me after a couple of days. I was 20 - a little bit late going into the professional game, but it definitely helped in the long run."

Doidge spent two years with the Essex club, enduring a draining second season in which they were relegated to the National League. Although he had offers to remain in the Football League, Doidge opted to join Forest Green Rovers.

He felt he needed to drop down a division to rediscover his ruthlessness in front of goal, a move that worked wonders. So much so that Championship club Bolton Wanderers took him on loan with a view to buying him for £1m.

Christian Doidge (centre) celebrates scoring for Bolton Wanderers
Doidge (centre) impressed on loan with Bolton Wanderers, but a £1m move fell through

That move collapsed as Bolton could not afford to pay the fee, paving the way for Paul Heckingbottom to bring Doidge to Edinburgh the following summer. But it was a slow start for the striker, with Doidge failing to score in his first nine Scottish Premiership matches. That proved very costly for his head coach.

"I was devastated when Paul left," he says. "I felt like I'd let him down and probably didn't do my job. My performances were quite good, but as a striker, sometimes that happens.

"I like to think I've got a good relationship with Paul and Robbie Stockdale. I've had a couple of texts off Robbie since and he's been really supportive. I can't worry about it now, I've got a job to do."

His goal drought came to an end in the first game following Heckingbottom's sacking, bagging a hat-trick in a 4-1 crushing of St Johnstone and Doidge has not looked back since.

"It was like the shackles came off," he says. "I definitely did get some lucky ones, but that's about perseverance when things aren't going well and it was my time to get a bit of luck.

"I haven't scored any from far out yet, but that's just never been my style."

Doidge has 11 goals in his past 18 league games and his form has also helped Jack Ross' side to a Scottish Cup semi-final.

He says he's targeting Europa League qualification with Hibs this season, while keeping one eye on the phone in case Ryan Giggs gets in touch.

"You dream about playing for Wales as a kid, but never in your wildest dreams do you think that people would be talking about," he adds.

"That was one of the reasons I came up the road to Hibernian - to get the coverage but ultimately score at a high level so they might consider me.

"It would be an unbelievable feeling - my friends at the moment are speaking to me all the time about it.

"And my mum, dad and little brother would be extremely proud."

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