Hibs striker Christian Doidge opens up on 'nightmare' season and champagne after cup final

Describing it as “a disaster” and a “nightmare”, Christian Doidge’s season thus far has not lived up to expectations.

Hibs' Christian Doidge walks off after being shown a red card during a cinch Premiership match against Ross County.
Hibs' Christian Doidge walks off after being shown a red card during a cinch Premiership match against Ross County.

Bogged down by a couple of Covid setbacks, an Achilles injury, a sending off and the uncertainty caused by a managerial sacking, the 29-year-old striker – who was such a pivotal player as they wrapped up a top-three league finish, as well as two prolonged cup runs last term – is playing catch up as he attempts to turn his fortunes and the recent form of the team around.

But, Sunday’s Premier Sports Cup final offers him the opportunity to right wrongs and gain the silverware they have been tantalisingly close to in his time in Leith, without actually walking away with it.

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“It’s been a nightmare. To get some minutes against Dundee was really good for me and I ended up with about 70 minutes, which is good, and started to feel a bit sharper.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Hibs' Martin Boyle celebrates his hat-trick with the matchball and Christian Doidge (centre), Ryan Porteous (right) and Joe Newell (top right) during a Premier Sports Cup semi-final match between Rangers and Hibernian at Hampden Park, on November 21, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

“That’s good for me going into the cup final. Hopefully I can contribute to the team. It has obviously been a disaster of a season so far so to win a cup final with the boys would be great.

“Getting Covid in the summer I was bed bound for a while. And then obviously coming back and getting the injury.”

That was in training, as Hibs prepared for what proved to be their European swansong, against Croatian side Rijeka.

“Then a few weeks ago I was sick for four days and that wasn’t ideal.” And, there were further setbacks as the covid outbreak within the squad forced the postponement of the games against Ross County and Livingston and the temporary closure of the training ground.

Christian Doidge was speaking at a Premier Sports Cup event. Premier Sports is available on Sky, Virgin TV and the Premier Player from £12.99 per month, and on Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

“That was when I was planning on getting minutes in an in-house game for the games coming up.” He has instead made a gradual return, with minutes off the bench. But even that was hamstrung by a red card in the rearranged match in Dingwall.

“Obviously, being sent off against Ross County didn’t help my case at all! So it was nice to get some minutes [against Dundee] to get me back in amongst it with the lads.”

But it is days like the raucous semi-final victory over Rangers and tomorrow’s all or nothing finale against Celtic that got him through illness and rehab.

“Yeah. Coming back from injury, the carrot was getting back for the semi-final and I played 15 minutes at the end of that and contributed and that was a really good feeling. Originally I wasn’t expected to get back for that so to play that day was good.

“And obviously getting myself in a good fitness level for the final, that’s been good for me.”

The build-up has been disrupted, though. Not just by poor league form but by the departure of manager Jack Ross, who paid the price for those results.

But while league points were hard to come by the Easter Road side managed to raise their game on cup duty, blowing away Rangers in their most recent trip to the national stadium and banishing some of the ghosts of last term, when they twice succumbed to St Johnstone in the latter stages of knockout competition.

“We also played them in the league a few times and they seemed to beat us the same way every time.

“[In the Scottish Cup final] it was 1-0, and things didn’t seem to work for us that day. It was a very sad day, and I think we could have been out there all day and we still wouldn’t have got a goal.”

There was a social-media backlash when Doidge was videoed quaffing champagne at home in the wake of that defeat.

It was interpreted as the Welshman not caring, or certainly not hurting to the extent many disgruntled fans were. But, while the whole-hearted team player recognises the optics were not great, he insists that those assumptions were far from accurate.

“That was tough. It wasn’t ideal and I can understand why the fans were extremely frustrated.

“I had a lot of family and friends in my house that day and I hadn’t seen them in a very long time [because of heightened covid restrictions etc]. So, it was more a celebration of being with them after nearly a year.

“It wasn’t ideal that it went online, and I can see why the fans were frustrated with that, so if I could do it all over again I definitely wouldn’t do that.”

But he is hoping that they are all in the mood to knock back some bubbly on Sunday, albeit the busy fixture list would limit the players’ partying.

“If we win they might let us have a few drinks but, listen, we need to get the league campaign back up and running. We could have a new manager by then as well. So we’ll have to see what he thinks.

“Whoever comes in will have a great group of lads who are willing to work hard.”

Having signed a new contract in November that ties him to the club until 2024, the departure of a manager who recognised and valued his input, helping conjure up a collective 50-plus goals as part of one of last season’s most prolific attacks, as well as weighing in defensively due to his work ethic and physical and aerial prowess, is always a concern.

“Everyone was disappointed with what happened with the old manager but we have got to keep positive and keep going forward.

“Dave [Gray] is going to lead us out at the weekend and all the lads are happy with that.

“I was thinking about that earlier! He has obviously done fantastic things for Hibs.

“One of the main things when you’re talking to the club about signing is they show you the video of 2016.

“It will be a great occasion for him to be on the sideline, and you just never know!”