Welsh striker Christian Doidge has been backed to fire Forest Green Rovers to promotion following the collapse of his £1m move to Bolton Wanderers.
Doidge is back at League Two Rovers after his loan spell at Bolton ended in acrimony, accusation, unpaid wages and a transfer ban than combined to preclude his four-month loan deal becoming a permanent switch.
The Cwmbran player – and former Carmarthen Town favourite – was due to complete his move to Bolton on January 3, but the club’s financial problems meant they were unable to fulfil their commitment and the 26-year-old has gone back to Rovers.
But the club’s owner Dale Vince is convinced the best of Doidge is yet to come and says: “I think Christian will bounce back quickly from this disappointment.
“It was a dream move for him – from League Two to the Championship – he is ambitious and we didn’t want to stand in his way.
“But Bolton have not been able to fulfil their promises and so he’s come back to us. I don’t think it will effect him for long. He’s a very good professional and an impressive young man with a good attitude.
“He’s also a fantastic player and it’s like making a brilliant new signing halfway through the season.
“We are currently sixth in the table. With Christian back I think we’ve now got a very good chance of promotion and of being in League One next season.
“Even if he had stayed with Bolton, given their problems that is probably where he would have found himself next season, anyway.”
Doidge scored at Wembley in the National League play-offs to lift Forest Green into the Football League for the first time in their history in 2017.
He scored 27 goals that season and proved he was more than capable of stepping up through the levels with 25 more last season.
That kind of firepower secured a move to Bolton back in August, but the club have managed just one victory in the Championship since September and have slipped into the relegation zone.
Players’ wages have gone unpaid under controversial chairman and former players’ agent Ken Anderson and Vince has claimed Doidge’s wages for the past four months have been paid by Forest Green, rather than Bolton.
Unsurprisingly, Vince – who has successfully marketed Forest Green around the world as one of the most progressive and ecologically-minded clubs on the planet – has been unimpressed by the Doidge fiasco and the role of Anderson.
Vince adds: “They have paid nothing, literally nothing, for him for half the season and they don’t care. He (Anderson) says to me: ‘You can seek a winding-up petition, you can bankrupt the club.’ He said: ‘I don’t care, I’m a secured lender. I’ll get my money back and you’ll get 10p in the pound.’ This is a man that lives and operates, I think, in this way.”
In the summer Bolton players went on strike after they were not paid. The club avoided administration in September after the former owner Eddie Davies gave them a loan days before he died.
In a statement issued by Vince the Rovers owner – who now plans to sue Bolton – added: “It became clear to us that Bolton entered into a contract to loan and then buy Christian last August without the means to honour it, and perhaps the intention to do so as well.
“Ken Anderson made a lot of promises on the last day of the transfer window, both to Christian and FGR, and has kept none of them.
“This is all his work and from talking to Ken he feels immune from the consequences – but some of these promises are written in legally binding contracts and we’ll be pursuing them.”
Bolton released a response which read: “We are disappointed to read the statement as the club has been in dialogue with Mr Vince and Forest Green Rovers over this situation.
“We are hopeful that a satisfactory resolution will follow.”
The EFL confirmed in a statement that it is aware of the situation and is investigating. It read: “We were advised of the issue towards the end of last week and since that point have been seeking an appropriate solution that meets the requirements of our regulations.
“The problem has arisen as a result of Bolton Wanderers being placed under a registration embargo which wasn’t in place when both clubs entered into the initial loan agreement in August 2018. We remain in dialogue with both clubs.”