Highly-rated Carmarthen Town striker Christian Doidge appears destined for a summer move into the Football League but following a peculiar turn of events, it is now unlikely he will join Dagenham & Redbridge.
A string of impressive performances for the Old Gold and 17 Welsh Premier League goals last season from 21-year-old, former Barry Town player, Christian Doidge was enough to attract the attention of Football League clubs.
And though the last Carmarthen player to go into the Football League was ex-Cardiff, Aston Villa and Wales defender Mark Delany, Doidge has the potential to become the Welsh Premier League’s most successful Football League export.
A trial to Newport County ensued at the back-end of last season for both he and attacking full-back Luke Cummings, another member of the Carmarthen squad to shine. And Newport rekindled their interest again in Doidge pre-season, with the Cwmbran-born striker being invited back to train with the League Two club but he was unable to earn a contract by County boss Justin Edinburgh.
“We had a look at Doidge and he’s obviously a talent,” Edinburgh told County’s local paper, the South Wales Argus.
“If things had been different this summer then maybe we would have moved for the boy. But we’ve got eight strikers already and we had no room for anyone else. We had different priorities – we needed to sign a centre-half and strengthen midfield.
“It wasn’t a flippant decision and it wasn’t a snub to Carmarthen at all,” he added.
Edinburgh’s financial restrictions left Newport all but out of the equation much to the astonishment of Doidge’s current manager and former Newport player Mark Aizlewood.
“It will be the biggest mistake they’ve made since they failed to secure a sell-on fee when John Aldridge left,” explained the Carmarthen Town manager.
“I’ve played in the top division and international football but this lad is the best I’ve seen in the air at any level.
“I can’t believe it. I’ve spoken to Justin about Christian and he says he hasn’t got any money,” he added.
Doidge, despite Newport’s rejection, would be still a wanted man however and another League Two side stepped in to take a closer look, with the offer of a trial at Dagenham & Redbridge.
Three pre-season appearances and two goals later – including a headed strike in the Daggers’ 2-1 defeat to a young Tottenham side – led to Dagenham offering Doidge professional terms, but they were then forced to retract their interest after being unable to make contact with senior officials at Richmond Park.
Dagenham boss Wayne Burnett took to the Dagenham Post to explain the unique situation: “I have tried to get in contact with the club to discuss the issue but the chairman isn’t answering his phone or responding to text messages so we are not pursuing him any further.”
“We offered Christian a deal and was told he would be able to leave on a free to a higher league club, but that’s not the case.
“I asked before his trial whether he would be available on a free otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford him and I was told he was available. We wouldn’t have pursued the deal otherwise.
“I spoke to the player last Thursday and asked him whether he would be keen to make the move to London.
“He said that’d be okay and he would love the chance to play in the Football League, he even said he was available on a free.”
With Dagenham’s interest in Doidge cold, Burnett’s public criticism was not well received by Carmarthen Town, whose own version of events only added to the confusion that surround the proposed transfer.
Old Gold chairman Jeff Thomas wrote on the club’s website: “A formal written request was made by Dagenham, a Division 2 Club to allow Chris to go on trial with them, permission was granted on the basis that, should they wish to sign him, that I be informed in the first instance.”
“Two days after the end of his week-long trial period I received a telephone call from an agent (not Dagenham) informing me that Dagenham would like to sign Chris, that no fee would be offered but that a sell on clause in favour of Carmarthen Town would be offered and the possibility of a fee being paid after the playing of an agreed number of matches.
“I asked that Carmarthen Town be informed by Dagenham as to the exact position, given that there was a need to “firm up” on the conversation with the agent. I fully expected a written communication on a business matter such as this. On the following Wednesday 6th August, four days after the trial period I noted a missed call and a text message asking me to contact the Dagenham manager – due to other commitments I was unable to do so for some hours. I returned the call and replied to the text message giving a time that I would be sure to be available to answer. No call was received and to date no formal written contact has been made by Dagenham.”
Whichever side is to blame for the collapse of the move, there has clearly been a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line and it is Christian Doidge who suffers most, with his chance of a achieving a professional contract at a Football League club in balance.
Indeed, this has been recognised by Carmarthen, who hope to open up other avenues for Doidge by arranging trials at a Championship and League One club.
I’d like to think even if Doidge does remain a Carmarthen Town player going into the new season, a strong start to the campaign will again alert the attentions of clubs in the Football League and he will become the next striker to migrate from the WPL and into the professional game.
In the meanwhile, check out one of the league’s best assets whilst there is still time!