Hibs’ Christian Doidge sends a goal alert to Wales boss Ryan Giggs
The Wales manager cannot ignore someone scoring as regularly as Christian Doidge. The Newport-born striker’s hat-trick in the Scottish Cup win over Dundee United on Wednesday takes him to 14 goals for the season. Significantly, he has struck 12 of them since November. The burst of scoring form is particularly well-timed in view of Wales’ Euro 2020 participation.
It is also sure to have caught Giggs’ notice at a time when there are few Welsh strikers in such rich scoring form. Hal Robson-Kanu’s decision to reverse his retirement decision is not, on the face of it, good news for Doidge, since it means more competition.
Robson-Kanu has scored seven times for West Bromwich Albion this season. The next most prolific Welsh international is Stoke City’s Sam Vokes with five.
The uncapped Doidge was only a supporter in various fan zones when Wales took part in Euro 2016, with Robson-Kanu scoring a memorable goal in the 3-1 quarter-final win over Belgium. Playing in such a tournament alongside Robson-Kanu and Gareth Bale would be a dream outcome for the 27-year-old.
It wasn’t long ago when his Easter Road career seemed set to go only one way – through the exit door. Now his season is bursting with possibilities.
The only loser in all this seems to be Paul Heckingbottom, inset, who brought Doidge to Easter Road then looked on with dismay as the reported £350,000 signing struggled to even hit the target in the first weeks of the campaign. Heckingbottom was quickly dispensed with. Successor Jack Ross is the one reaping dividends as Doidge continues to make a mockery of those who questioned his ability during his slow start.
Doidge is sorry the way it worked out for the manager who signed him. He always felt he would come good. A hat-trick against St Johnstone in the first game after Heckingbottom’s departure was the kick-start he needed. Doidge didn’t mean it to be that way. It is just how it goes, sometimes.
“I always believed it was going to happen,” he said. “It’s just sometimes, as a striker, it doesn’t work out for you. It happens in Scotland, England, Wales, everywhere you go. Sometimes you struggle. And I probably have a history of not firing straight away when I join a club..”
Doidge only scored twice in his first 20 appearances for Dagenham & Redbridge and twice in ten games after signing for Forest Green Rovers, his previous club before Hibs. He does tend to keep scoring once he starts – which is good news for both club and country.
As well as the prospect of a place at Euro 2020, there is a Scottish Cup to play for – indeed, the final has been brought forward because of the European Championships. With BSC Glasgow, the lowest-ranked club left in the tournament, their opponents in the next round, Hibs are eyeing a place in the last eight. Doidge won the Welsh Premier League Cup on two occasions when with Carmarthen Town early in his career. “That’s probably as far as I’ve gone,” he reported. “I’ve had some nice FA Cup runs. I played Everton away at Goodison Park for Dagenham & Redbridge in my second season. That was in the third round. It was a nice experience.”
He is rightly proud of his achievements in Wales. A winner’s medal is a winner’s medal. “I’m Welsh so I would never slag off the Welsh Premier League,” he said. “I was very young and to get silverware is always special. It’s something I will always remember because a lot of them are still my friends.
“One of the finals was at Aberystwyth Town and the other was at Newtown. They both went to penalties so it was obviously very stressful. I think the same guy, Craig Hanford, scored the winning penalty in both finals so that’s pretty special in itself.”
As a back-to-back winner Doidge’s cup pedigree is impressive but he was once in a position where he knew he needed to make an impression to move on to another level. So he is one Hibs player who certainly won’t regard BSC Glasgow with any snootiness when the teams face each other next month in Alloa.
“It’s a massive game for the club we are playing and I’m sure they will make a lot of money from it,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for them so we have got to go there fully prepared and expect a very good side.
“You want to make a name for yourself,” he added. “You want to go there and perform well and hopefully someone is watching you, especially when you are at a really small club like that. Clubs want you to move on and progress so anyone who is on that pitch is probably going to be looking for a spot in the Premiership.”