Christian Doidge reveals Hibs chase, how he became a striker, and swapping the police for professional football

From the third tier of Welsh football, through the international ranks in Welsh basketball to working in the police: Christian Doidge’s journey to becoming a professional footballer is an inspiring one.

By Gavin Rittoo
Friday, 29th April 2022, 7:00 am

The Hibs front man has notched up more than 100 appearances for the club since he joined in the summer of 2019 and is a popular figure amongst the dressing

room with his outgoing, friendly personality.

But Doidge’s journey to the Hibees was not a linear one, having dealt with numerous setbacks from an early age. The 29-year-old was a ‘late bloomer’ when it came to making it as a professional footballer – a dream that Doidge himself concedes he thought would never happen.

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“Obviously when I was a kid all I ever wanted to be was a professional footballer. With a few setbacks in my teenage years, I didn’t think it was going to happen, so I had forgotten about that dream as a little kid,” he said.

“As soon as I left school, I was just interested in being a normal lad and focusing on my career. I wanted to play football on a Saturday and go to the pub with my mates on a Saturday night.

"I never thought I was going to be a footballer, I was just happy working in the police, playing football on a Saturday and living a normal life.”

So, what changed? And how did Doidge go from playing amateur football in Wales to scoring goals at Wembley and hat-tricks for Hibs?

Christian Doidge is still enjoying life at Hibs despite a difficult season

A spell in a Bath-based branch of the Southampton Academy gave Doidge his first taste of football alongside future stars including Gareth Bale and Tyrone Mings. He was released after two-and-a-half years – “I think I was a bit too small” – but attracted the attention of Bristol Rovers, spotted by a scout as he kicked a ball around while watching his brother play in another game.

A successful trial led to the Welshman joining the Pirates but it was a similar story.

“I was there a few years and I enjoyed it but I was quite a late developer. I didn’t get a growth spurt at all and I was probably the smallest in my team meaning it was so hard to compete with everyone else – I was just too small.

"I got released at 15 just when they were offering out the Academy contracts and scholarships; as you can imagine I was gutted.

Doidge features on the front cover of the second issue of HQ magazine

“I thought that was the end, I honestly did. I started to fall out of love with football because I felt I wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t enjoying it.”

Doidge turned to basketball in the wake of his football disappointment, representing Wales in the European Championships in Malta. But the travel and commitment began to take its toll and in his final year at school the prospect of playing football with his mates became more appealing.

“Towards the end of my sixth form, all my friends were playing for the football team. After basketball training I would run over to football training and join in for the last 15 minutes of the session.

“I realised that with basketball that I probably wasn’t going to go any further and I was getting to that point where I had to start focusing on education and my next steps. Football was more fun because all my friends played, they all played on a Saturday together and I wanted to be a part of that life.

Doidge in action for Dagenham & Redbridge during the 2015/16 season

“I just wanted to be a normal lad and play with all my mates who I had grown up with."

Doidge joined a football club called Croesyceiliog and shortly after had a growth spurt – “that summer I had grown about six inches and I was like Bambi on ice” – and that, combined with his basketball past, made him an ideal fit in defence, initially at centre-back and then right-back.

"I hadn’t played football properly and I was still getting used to my body and adjusting to everything. But I remember I just kept scoring all the time from set-plays. I would score headers from corners and then one week they put me up front and the rest was history really.

“I started scoring goals and got into the first team which was a big thing for me at the time. That’s when I started getting some more interest from other Welsh clubs.”

Spells followed at Barry Town and Carmarthen which was Doidge’s ticket to the Football League. He moved to National League side Forest Green Rovers after a stint with Dagenham and Redbridge, and helped secure league football for FGR with a goal at Wembley in a 3-1 victory over Tranmere Rovers in the 2017 National league play-off final.

A loan spell at Championship side Bolton didn’t pan out as planned and he returned to The New Lawn.

Celebrating a goal for Forest Green Rovers at Wembley en route to the EFL

“When I went back to Forest Green it was tough to take because I felt like I had earned that opportunity to play at that high level. We ended up losing in the semi-finals of the play-offs… that was a really long season for me with everything that had happened.”

Then Hibs came calling.

“I really wanted a new challenge and to prove that I could do it at a higher level, especially after getting that opportunity at Bolton. I wanted to go out and push

myself again.

"The opportunity came up to join Hibs – it is a massive club, amazing city, lovely stadium and a really big fanbase so it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

"Hibs had come in for me a few times before when I was at Forest Green but the deal never materialised.

"I have had some really good moments so far in a Hibs shirt; I have had a lot of lows too, but the highs make them all worth it. Hopefully, there are plenty more to come.”

You can read the full version of this interview in Hibernian Quarterly, Hibs’ new quarterly magazine, on sale now from the club shop – subscriptions available HERE

Doidge has scored in cup games, league games, and at Hampden for the Easter Road side