WANDERERS’ new boy Christian Doidge has always had an eye for the net.

Way before the Welshman was catching Bolton’s attentions with his goals for Forest Green, he was representing his country at the European Under-19 Basketball Championships.

Football had fallen briefly off the menu for Doidge, who had been rejected at the age of 15 by Bristol Rovers, ironically for being ‘too small’.

A growth spurt later and a very different career path emerged for the man who could make his Championship debut against QPR tomorrow afternoon.

“It has been a bit of a weird road for me, I suppose, but an enjoyable one,” he told The Bolton News. “I’d been released by Bristol Rovers and, to be honest, I gave the game up completely.

“I didn’t want to play football for a time and so I started messing about with friends playing basketball and got pretty good at it, played at a decent level.

“I had a few different jobs but it’s fair to say professional football seemed quite far away at the time.”

Doidge did get back on the footballing ladder, with Cwmbran Celtic, Croesyceiliog and then Barry Town United, before the Welsh Premier League came calling.

“I got a move to Camarthen, which was a fairly big deal for me at the time because it suddenly ignited the idea that I could be playing professional football.”

Doidge worked as a community police officer for a time in Wales before Dagenham and Redbridge offered him a chance to play in the Conference.

“I got injured a lot in my first year there,” Doidge said. “It knocked my confidence a bit but once I’d got into the swing of things I started scoring goals and that’s when I got the move to Forest Green.”

Gloucestershire beckoned for the 6ft 2ins striker and a project which was quite unique among its peers. Proudly boasting itself as the ‘first vegan football club’, Forest Green revel in their ecologically-sound home, the New Lawn, which is entirely carbon neutral.

While Wanderers fans will be chowing down on Hollands’ steak pies at the UniBol tomorrow afternoon the vegan ethic extends to the whole stadium at Doidge’s former club, with meat banned.

The vegan edict stems from owner, and eco activist, Dale Vince but while it may seem eccentric to those carnivores in the North West, Doidge says the players are unaffected.

“You can’t buy a meat pie from the burger van but it doesn’t really register,” laughed the striker. “The chairman has his beliefs but he doesn’t tell the players ‘you need to eat this or that’.

“The food provided by the club is vegan and healthy, so there’s nothing at all wrong with that. But they don’t make you swear you won’t go home and eat a steak dinner.

“Some of the players have gone vegan from being at the club and feel they benefit from it but that’s their decision. The club don’t get too involved.

“I’m not sure it would catch on in Bolton.”

An injury to Josh Magennis whilst on international duty could give the 26-year-old a window of opportunity to make his debut against QPR, following his loan deadline day move from Forest Green.

The deal which finally convinced Rovers to let go of their prized goal-scoring asset, who had scored 49 times in 87 league games, could eventually be worth £1million, should a number of bonuses materialise.

Doidge’s move will officially become permanent in January at which point he will be only the second cash signing Wanderers have made in around four years.

Pressure, says the Newport-born front man, will come from within.

“This is my big chance and I’m absolutely ecstatic about it,” he said. “But I know I have to take it. I need to do exactly what I have been doing at the other clubs, scoring goals and helping get results.

“I’ve worked hard to get this far. It hasn’t been easy and there have been times when people have doubted I would get this far but, for me, it is a case of keep on going and see how far I can get.

“Bolton is a big club and even when I was looking around the place I kept thinking to myself ‘this is mental’ but I can’t afford to let those things play on my mind.

“I feel like this is my time. If I wanted my career to progress this was the right move to make and now I have got to prove myself again at Bolton.”

Doidge has no doubt what the proudest moment to date in his professional career has been.

In May 2017 he scored against Tranmere Rovers – a feat which may have already endeared him to the Wanderers faithful – to help book Forest Green’s place in the Football League during the play-off final at Wembley.

“The club was fantastic to me,” he said. “That goal was the highlight of my career. I’ll be doing really well to top it, no matter what I do from here.

“I owe Forest Green a lot. I learned more about being a footballer there. Anything you needed, the chairman sorted it for you and they looked after you. I had a great two years.

“I felt it was time I had to move on. It wasn’t an easy decision, I could have waited until the end of this season and then seen where I was. But chances like this don’t come along all that often so I decided to go for it.”

That hunger is what attracted Phil Parkinson to make Doidge his number one target of the loan-to-buy window.

The Wanderers boss had missed out on Charlie Wyke and Joe Garner a few weeks earlier and needed a player who could handle himself in a similar way but he disputes his new signing should be passed off simply as a target man.

“Chris can score all types of goals, he’s good in the air but he’s got a good touch as well,” he said. “He’s come up the hard way into league football, had to fight for everything he’s got in this game, and I like that.

“He’s a good size, he’s mobile, has a terrific spring, and he knows where the goal is. He’s got that knack of knowing where the ball is going to be and gambling on things in the box, so I just thought he was the right one for us.

“We have looked long and hard and wanted a player with hunger, determination and with a point to prove and Christian fits the bill. It’s what we’re about as a club now.”

Parkinson feels Doidge has the attributes to be a popular player among the fans at Bolton.

“I’ve been here a couple of years now and I know Bolton’s supporters want to see a player who works hard when they are wearing the shirt.” he said. “They have already shown that with Josh Magennis this season - he’s been excellent and they have taken to him - but I genuinely think Chris can be that kind of player for us as well.

“He’s hungry to do well at Bolton Wanderers and that’s exactly the type of player we need at this club.”