CHRISTIAN DOIDGE insists being robbed of a shot at glory with Wales has only made him more determined to earn a crack at the European Championships.
The Hibernian front-man was on the cusp of his maiden international call-up prior to the coronavirus outbreak forcing a halt to Scottish football.
The 27-year-old’s 16 goals in his previous 23 outings had caught the eye of Dragons boss Ryan Giggs, with the Manchester United icon revealing Doidge was on his radar and ‘someone who we’re looking at closely’.
It is likely Doidge would have been named in the squad for March friendlies against Austria and the USA and told to to stake a claim for a place at Euro 2020.
That tournament has now been shelved until next summer and Doidge will need to prove himself all over again when football resumes.
However, Doidge has completed a remarkable journey from being a cop with South Wales Police and playing amateur football on the side, to the cusp of international recognition – so he is not about to throw in the towel now.
He said: “Ryan Giggs is massive figure for anyone who grew up in Wales and the things he did for Manchester United were outrageous.
“I looked up to him when I was a kid – so when you get someone like that talking about you, and saying positive things, it was a really proud moment for me and my family.
“I’d love to take that next step and work under him one day.
“I was getting a bit of momentum this season, a lot of media coverage and there was a fair bit of talk about a Wales call-up. My mentality is: I’ve got to do it again.
“If I was close to a call-up, then I need to hit the same levels and get even closer when the football starts again.
“I never imagined I would even be in the conversation for a Wales call-up, especially when the Euros were approaching, so it has just given me more motivation to score goals and regain that form.”
Like the majority of his teammates, Doidge has been furloughed amid the ongoing uncertainty regarding when a ball will next be kicked in the SPFL.
But even if the Premiership campaign is called, Doidge is desperate for the Hampden power-brokers to find a way to ensure the 2019/20 Scottish Cup is played to its conclusion.
Hibs were due to face Hearts in a mouth-watering semi-final on April 11 and Doidge has openly admitted that he was overcome by a galling feeling of what might have been when that date came around.
He continued: “I remember the day we were supposed to be playing Hearts. I woke up and it was like ‘this doesn’t seem right’.
“We know how much the fans get up for those matches and, honestly, we are just the same as players. As soon as that draw was made, we had the date circled on the calendar! So it was a bit sad when the day came around.
“I was so excited and it would have been an incredible occasion – the chance to play at a sold out Hampden against your local rivals. The atmosphere would have been electric.
“Hopefully, we can still get that game played. It would be disappointing if the league can’t be finished but if we still have the opportunity to play the cup then I’m sure the fans and everyone at the football club would be slightly happier.”
Doidge has already been a hero at England’s national stadium, scoring a wonder-goal in Forest Green Rovers’ League Two playoff final win against Tranmere in 2017.
But his only experience of Hampden was a bruising 5-2 battering by Celtic in the last four of the Betfred Cup in November – and Doidge is itching for the opportunity to make amends at the home of Scottish football.
He added: “I’m keen to get back to Hampden and rectify the Betfred Cup defeat.
“I’ve had a big moment at Wembley in my career and that feeling still gives me butterflies now.
“So to possibly get that opportunity again, this time at Hampden, is something that really motivates me and drives me on.”
As he ponders a return to action, Doidge’s desire to get back to work shines through.
Although on furlough, he continues to work to his own fitness regime on a daily basis and is adamant he will be raring to go as soon as the call comes.
However, with his mum Caroline working for the police force back home in Newport, Doidge is acutely aware of the danger posed by complacency in the face of Covid-19 and knows safety is paramount.
Doidge added: “My mum is a police community support officer in Newport, so she is really on the front line.
“I speak to her almost every day and she is still dealing with people who are still hanging around in groups and not following guidelines – it’s hard not to feel annoyed.
“It frustrating when people can’t just follow rules. I keep in touch with a lot of my ex-colleagues [in the South Wales Police force] as well and they are still working, still grafting, and I’ve got a lot of respect for what they are doing right now.”