Josh Doig opens up on Hibs breakthrough, spell on sidelines, Lewis Stevenson and Ross County pal
Having started the season with a bang, the recent spell on the sidelines did nothing to disarm Hibs teenager Josh Doig, who made an explosive return to the starting line-up on Boxing Day against Rangers.
There was no feeling his way back into top flight football. Instead, he made his impact felt in the very first minute at Ibrox as he took the game to the league leaders, charging down the left flank from his wing-back berth and curling in a cross to the back post that took three defenders and goalkeeper Allan McGregor out of the equation. Had team-mate Martin Boyle been an inch taller or a split second faster as he slid in, it might have given the away team the opener.
The fact it didn’t end in a goal did not detract from Doig’s direct running or his dangerous delivery and proved that his period out of the team had not been detrimental to his confidence or his game.
It wasn’t his only input or his only cross as he topped the team’s stats when it came to distance covered and level of intensity, and was second when it came to sprint distance covered.
As for the crosses, they were a by-product of the post-training sessions he undertakes. Just him, a couple of bags of balls, repetition and the determination to progress as a player.
Starting the season as Jack Ross’ preferred left-back, he did not get carried away and when he was eventually usurped by the hugely-experienced Lewis Stevenson after a torrid time against Celtic, he did not allow himself to be bowed by self-pity or petulance.
He can take credit for that, but he also attributes the healthy mindset to the role played by those around him, including his manager and Stevenson.
Doig’s education and no loss of faith
“I was a bit overwhelmed. I was playing all these games and the semi final – it all came so fast,” said Doig. “So it was a good decision to give me a bit of a break and time out to study the game a bit more.
“The video analysis has been brilliant. Every week I get stuff to watch from all over the world – people getting the ball at their feet, crossing it, forward passes, from centre halves to wing-backs. I have been in all these positions this season, so it’s good to sit and learn the game a bit more.”
There had been occasional appearances, but he had sat out the eight games leading up to the head-to-head with Rangers.
“You need to get your head down and work to impress the manager and coaching staff. It gives you drive to get back in the team.
“It helped that the gaffer had told me it wasn’t him losing faith in me. He told me to take a break and be ready because I would be back in at some point and he showed that by putting me back in at Ibrox, against one of the top players in the country. It’s good to know he has that faith in me.”
Humility and Stevenson’s help
A hugely promising starlet, with his wits about him and no hint of an ego to hold him back, he recognises the value in listening to the likes of Stevenson, who may be a rival for the left-back role but remains a font of useful information and inspiration.
“It’s good having that competition for the left-back spot and we still talk all the time. He is brilliant with me. Always talking to me at training, before games, after games – he is always there to give me tips. I couldn’t ask for any more.
“Lewis told me he’s been in and out the team all through his Hibs career and with such a long career ahead of me I can’t let it get to me.
“Just being able to watch Lewis, the amount of games he has played for this club is sensational. And being able to sit back and study his game … Paul McGinn as well … the last time I was in the team, I was kind of hectic because I felt like I needed to do something to impress the gaffer but, watching Lewis, he just keeps it easy and I was watching his first touch and he gets the ball out of his feet really well and is always looking forward.
“He is very positive with the ball and I noticed that and I have been trying to work on that in training and on my crossing because Lewis’ crossing is brilliant. He is at the top of his game and, for his age as well, he is still in such great condition. Watching him has helped me massively.”
Tale of two Joshes
There has been value in sharing the experiences of his young peers, too. Ross County’s Josh Reid is another teenager to have made the breakthrough in a season where the absence of fans does not remove the pressure to perform, and it has been a topic for discussion on international duty.
“I was in the Scotland Under-19 squad with Josh and I got really pally with him. I was sitting with him at dinner and we were speaking a lot about how crazy it is to all of a sudden be in this first team environment and saying it’s funny how comfortable you get so quickly.
“I would imagine the boys at Ross County have been very good with Josh, which is like me here, and we obviously play the same position. Both of us are the same age as well. It was really good to speak to him because he is going through the exact same thing as me and it is hard because of the media pressure and seeing what people are saying on twitter. But you learn not to look at that. You should only be worried about your game. I found it really good to speak to him about all that.”