DOIDGE EN­JOYS TASTE OF THE BIG TIME

Rovers ace gets his FIFA chance

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Dan Barnes

CHRISTIAN Doidge’s face cer­tainly fits at For­est Green Rovers.

As poster boy be­hind the Glouces­ter­shire club’s his­toric first-ever pro­mo­tion to the Foot­ball League, the 24year-old striker signed a twoyear contract ex­ten­sion on the eve of the new sea­son.

He bagged 27 goals last term, in­clud­ing one at Wem­b­ley, to help Mark Cooper’s men grad­u­ate to the big time via the Na­tional League play-offs.

Nat­u­rally, Doidge was the first to step up to the plate when Rovers be­came the first team out­side of Europe’s top leagues to have their faces scanned for the next edi­tion of EA Sports’ long-run­ning FIFA video game series. He went through the same process as cover star Cris­tiano Ron­aldo.

“I’ve been on FIFA be­fore, but to ac­tu­ally have your face scanned is un­be­liev­able,” said the Welsh front­man.

“I’m not a big con­sole guy my­self, but the boys were buzzing, so I’m go­ing to have to buy one now – just be­cause my face is go­ing to be on it.”

It could all have been so dif­fer­ent, though. As a 15-year-old, Doidge was re­leased by Bris­tol Rovers and took the un­usual step of tak­ing up a new sport en­tirely – bas­ket­ball – and pro­gress­ing all the way to rep­re­sent­ing Wales at U18 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship level in Malta in 2009. How­ever, the pitch

and not the court was where his true pas­sion lay and, af­ter ris­ing through the ranks of Welsh foot­ball, the Rovers man did man­age to sculpt a pro­fes­sional foot­ball ca­reer.

Dev­as­tated

He’s come a long way since those days when he felt the sport had chewed him up and spat him out.

“I was dev­as­tated I gave up the game, had a cou­ple of years out and started play­ing bas­ket­ball with my friends lo­cally,” said Doidge, who signed for Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge in Au­gust 2014. “I was so dis­heart­ened about foot­ball be­cause that was the game I loved. To get re­leased...I was dev­as­tated and I needed a change.

“At my school, they had a bas­ket­ball academy, so I joined that.

“I started play­ing, rep­re­sented the county a cou­ple of times and then played for Wales. I went to Malta to play in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships.

“It got to a point where, if I wanted to progress with a bas­ket­ball ca­reer, I’d have to move away and I didn’t want to do it at that age, so I started play­ing foot­ball again at 19.

“I started right at the bot­tom of the Welsh leagues, play­ing for my lo­cal side with all my friends, at right-back for Croesy­ceil­iog.

“I moved on to Barry Town, then Car­marthen, and then I had a trial at New­port County.

“Noth­ing ma­te­ri­alised, but then I got a move to Da­gen­ham on a two-year deal, so I couldn’t have been hap­pier.” Doidge still en­joys watch­ing bas­ket­ball on TV but this sea­son he’ll be con­cen­trat­ing on do­ing every­thing he can to prove as pro­lific in League Two as he was in the Na­tional League. Hav­ing notched in last sea­son’s play-offs against former club Da­gen­ham, whom he left to join Rovers in June last year, he’s now keen to find a long-term home.

Doidge said: “Ev­ery time I’ve played for some­one, I’ve al­ways felt that I had more to give, and I’ve kept push­ing, so I’ve got pro­moted or moved on to the next level. I haven’t re­ally stayed some­where for a cou­ple of years yet.

“I’m hop­ing, at For­est Green, we can get pro­moted again in the next cou­ple of years and then I’ll see what hap­pens.”

SCREEN TIME: Christian Doidge has his face scanned for FIFA 18

WEM­B­LEY JOY: Christian Doidge scored in last sea­son’s play-off fi­nal

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