JOHN HARTSON was forced to bide his time behind Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Dean Saunders – but ultimately made himself impossible for Wales to ignore.
And the Dragons legend is adamant Hibs goal machine Christian Doidge can do the same after his painful international snub.
It is understood Doidge was firmly in the running for his maiden call-up after notching 18 goals in his last 28 games stretching back to last season.
However, he narrowly missed the cut as boss Ryan Giggs selected Kieffer Moore, Tyler Roberts and Hal Robson-Kanu in his pool of attackers, with the latter picked for the first time since 2017 after previously retiring from international football.
Hartson, who is preparing to cover the fixtures against Finland and Bulgaria for Welsh broadcaster S4C, and can understand Giggs’ thinking, albeit Doidge’s plight brought back memories of his own fight to gain international recognition.
Hartson recalled: “When I was coming through as a young player I was desperate to play for my country but I had [Ian] Rush, [Mark] Hughes and [Dean] Saunders keeping me out of the team.
“I was scoring goals for Arsenal and West Ham in the Premier League but I still had to be patient. I took my chance when it came and won more than 51 caps for my country.
“Christian has a similar situation. Kieffer Moore is a traditional number nine and Hal Robson-Kanu has that experience of going to the Euros  for Wales, which is invaluable.
“Daniel James, Gareth Bale, Harry Wilson and David Brooks, who has been linked with a £40 million move from Bournemouth, can all play in that attacking role too.
“But there’s no doubt Christian is unlucky. He just needs to keep banging in the goals and then he can’t be ignored.
“That will keep him in the limelight – work even harder, keep improving and add to his goal tally, because Ryan Giggs will be keeping an eye on how he does.”
And Hartson, who now lives in Edinburgh and has watched Hibs’ progress with interest this term, has paid the towering marksman the ultimate compliment – insisting he sees shades of himself in Doidge.
He reckons the former Forest Green Rovers and Bolton man is a throwback to the likes of physical front-men like Nathan Blake and Iwan Roberts.
Hartson is also adamant Doidge’s rocky road to Hibs – dropping down to part-time football before battling back to senior level – will ensure he doesn’t let his head drop.
The ex-Celtic hero continued: “I’m a big fan of Christian. I loved his goal up at Dundee United the other week when he really showed his strength, touch and finishing ability.
“I’m delighted we have another target man to bring in. I look back to when we had myself, Nathan Blake and Iwan Roberts – and Christian is another one in that mould.
“You look at Christian’s career path and it’s the story of someone who has overcome setbacks and challenges to reach the highest level in Scotland.
“If he keeps that jersey and helps Hibs stay towards the top of the league, then I’ve no doubt that next step for him – playing for Wales – can come.”
Hartson has also laughed off any suggestion that Giggs may have overlooked Doidge because he is plying his trade in Scotland, insisting that the Manchester United icon would never be so ‘naive’.
He added: “I won a lot of my caps while leading the line for Celtic and, although we were playing at a very high level – winning titles and doing well in Europe – my domestic football was still being played in Scotland and it didn’t set me back.
“Ryan isn’t blind to the quality in Scotland and he’ll have scouts up here telling him all about the games and the competitive standard. Whether Christian is selected or not, I don’t think it will be because he is in Scotland.
“I don’t believe that Ryan would be so naive as to write off the quality of the SPFL, especially if Christian is scoring goals at the top end of the Scottish Premiership.”