WHATEVER has been in Scottish water in recent years appears to have concentrated in growing fullbacks. In a fertile environment at Easter Road this season, Josh Doig is the latest to shoot to prominence after a sink or swim introduction to the Hibs first-team.

The 18-year-old’s formative years were spent keeping a close eye on Kieran Tierney at Celtic. Understandable, then, that he was fairly ticked to learn that by winning this season’s Scottish Football Writers’ Young Player of the year award he was following in the footsteps of the Scottish internationalist who won it three times in succession before his move to Arsenal.

“I’m ecstatic about I,” beamed the teenager. “It’s the first award I’ve ever won. It’s a first for me and a shock to be honest.”

It is not the only time he has emulated the now Arsenal fullback. Tierney was the second last in his Celtic youth group to be offered a professional contract because of suspicions about a slight build; Doig was released by Hearts before crossing the city to Hibs but there was always a question mark about whether he had the physical attributes to make a career in professional football. The early setbacks and the doubts about his chances were the fuel that kept him working towards the fist-team goal.

‘Growing up Kieran Tierney was one [I liked to watch],” said Doig, who has been linked with Leciester, Celtic, Leeds and Arsenal. “Going to watch games, I always liked to watch him. He was so young but he always had that heart and desire, that aggression about him that was very inspiring.

“You could tell he was going to go far and what he is doing at Arsenal now is absolutely mental. He’s someone you want to idolise because of what he has done in his career already. He had set-backs too. I know when he was younger he got told he wasn’t big enough. I was the same, I was so skinny and I got released.

“He used those setbacks to drive forward. He is just someone that young left-backs in Scotland should be idolising. He is such a hard-working person and has that drive that you don’t see so much now. I can’t take it for granted because I know I will need to work hard if I want to get anywhere near him.

“He was at Celtic for a few seasons and was so consistent. That was his main thing and it’s something I am trying to bring to my game, week in week out. He was playing brilliantly, scoring goals and assists too.”

Doig had a brief stint on loan at Queen’s Park before returning to make the breakthrough with Hibs at the start of this season. But it was the first tentative experience of being exposed to the rigours of senior football that gave him the confidence to appreciate he could compete. Although it did mean negating a ‘holiday’ with his Hibs team-mates.

“I remember my first time in training… I was meant to go away with the 18s that weekend,” he explained. “It was either Queen’s Park or go away to Portugal with the 18s. I was looking at it as a free holiday but I knew Queen’s Park was the better option as I was playing with men.

“At the first training session Ray McKinnon told my dad that I’d be starting at the weekend. The first game against Cowdenbeath at Hampden and I was absolutely terrified. It was my first start.

“I remember thinking I was too small. I was very nervous. But I got on the pitch and made a few passes and felt like I could compete. I thought they were bigger physically but I realised I could compete with men really. From there I never really looked back.

“In lockdown I went away and worked on myself physically. Went down the park to develop technically. I had trained with the first team previously but I came back with my head held high and tried to play the ball about, tried to look like I belonged. Since then I have tried to keep those standards. I got my start and it’s been crazy. It still doesn’t seem real.”

“I know all the other players on the list and there are a few others who weren’t there too. Players I have watched. Last season and before when I wasn’t in professional football I was idolising these guys and what they were doing at that age. To win the award over them. It’s shocking!”

Having made that step up it remains to be seen to what level Doig can reach. Watched by Brendan Rodgers’ side this term and also linked with Celtic there is every reason to suspect that he may not linger too long in Leith although he is in no rush to sever ties with a club where he has been given a platform to build a career.

“It’s crazy because I’ve grown up watching all these clubs and for any of them even to show an interest…,” said Doig. “Whatever happens, happens. But as long as I’m playing football, whether it’s here at Barcelona or back at Queen’s Park, that’s what I want.

“I absolutely adore it here at Hibs. My first season, how I have been treated by the players and the staff, it’s like no club I have experienced in my life. It’s so good here. I can only appreciate what they have done. I want to keep working hard and give everything I’ve got for them. I’m happy at Hibs and that’s all that matters.

“You see with the likes of John McGinn. I know Hibs is a a great pathway to go to higher places but it is still a massive club in itself. We could finish third this season. I don’t think there’s a better place than Hibs to develop as a player.”

*Josh Doig was speaking as he collected the DoubleTree by Hilton Scottish Football Writers’ Young Scottish Player of the year award