A few days in Dubai last week didn’t only offer Christian Doidge the chance to get some sun on his back but a chance to reflect on the vagaries of being a football player.
A year ago the striker was poised to make a dream move to English Championship club Bolton Wanderers only for a deal, by which a loan move would have been made permanent, to collapse, forcing a return to Forest Green Rovers in League Two.
It was, he admitted, something of a comedown, the wrangle between the two clubs only finally resolved three weeks ago, by which time, of course, Doidge had long since moved north of the border seeking to carve out a new career with Hibs.
But, it proved to be anything but plain sailing. The centre forward who arrived at Easter Road with a reported £350,000 price tag slung around his neck and expected to repay that instantly with goals aplenty managed only a couple against Alloa and Morton in the Betfred Cup.
Almost four months passed before he broke his Premiership duck with a hat-trick against St Johnstone only days after the head coach who signed him, Paul Heckingbottom, was sacked, those goals at McDiarmid Park sparking a run of seven in only five matches.
As far as Doidge was concerned, though, it was probably par for the course, the 27-year-old Welshman having battled adversity from the days when, as a teenager, he was told by both Southampton and Bristol Rovers that he wouldn’t make it.
Initially he turned his back on the game, taking up basketball and proving good enough to represent Wales in the European Championships in Malta, but he was tempted back, working his way up through the Welsh Leagues and a move to Dagenham and Redbridge and on to Forest Green. “It was an up-and-down year with the whole Bolton thing and then coming up to Hibs,” he said.
“My best friend lives out there [Dubai] so it was good to spend some time with him. I don’t get to see him very often. We had a great time and it was nice to relax and play a couple of games of golf. It was nice to have a week to reflect.
“My loan [at Bolton] finished on 3 January and I went in and they told me Ken Anderson [Bolton’s chairman] hadn’t paid the money, so I had to go back to Forest Green the following day. And from there I never went back to Bolton. So I went back to League Two and played there.
“Yeah it was a blow, I was really disappointed at the time, you get an opportunity to play in the Championship and I was starting to play quite regularly. It was good, I felt like I was finding my feet.
“So it’s hard when you then have to drop back down two leagues and go again. It took me a while to get myself firing again, but when I did I obviously got a great opportunity to play for Hibs.”
Back with his Easter Road team-mates as they prepare for the second half of the season on the Costa del Sol, Doidge presents a philosophical front when reviewing a career pitted with possibly more downs than ups, insisting: “There’s a load of sob stories for every footballer and I am no different to a lot of people.
“I think my career, in general, has been a bit crazy, if I’m honest. It’s just one of those things. I am someone who worked until I was 21, so I realise how lucky I am and what an opportunity I have got being a professional footballer. I think about that every day.
“So I try to take that into my football. When you get opportunities you have to take them and hopefully I can do that at Hibs. Hopefully I can be a bit more relaxed this year and just fully focus on the football side of things.”
As a striker Doidge accepts supporters will rarely look beyond the statistic of how many goals he has scored but he insisted that throughout that long drought, he felt he was still making a contribution. He said: “I suppose it was a little bit difficult because I didn’t score many goals. But the thing was, I felt my performances weren’t too bad. I just couldn’t find the back of the net.
“It can get difficult because there is a lot of pressure on you. I kept grinding and remembered why I was here in the first place and just waited for that bit of luck.”
Throughout, Doidge had team-mate Joe Newell to lean upon, the midfielder also taking time to win over the Hibs support having arrived at the same time via Rotherham United.
“Joe and I are close and we spoke about it a lot,” he revealed. “We love the city, we love the club, we really enjoy it here. Sometimes football just doesn’t go to plan.
“That’s what happened. So to actually start doing well, it makes you realise how liked and wanted you are and it makes you want it more.”