Former Hibs starlet Josh Doig lifts lid on life in Verona - 'now it’s all red wines and cheeses'

Josh Doig, centre, will be part of the Scotland Under-21 squad travelling to Jean to face Spain. (Photo: Alan Harvey - SNS Group)
Josh Doig, centre, will be part of the Scotland Under-21 squad travelling to Jean to face Spain. (Photo: Alan Harvey - SNS Group)

With one full season in Serie A under his belt, the seven-time capped Scotland Under-21 has come up against some of the best in the game and, following Hellas Verona’s last-gasp escape from relegation last term, he is ready to renew acquaintances, test his mettle against any newcomers and bolster his haul of keepsakes. “I'm still such a fanboy,” says Doig. “I still take videos coming up the tunnel for my family and I’m such a baby when I'm trying to get other players’ strips. I want to get as many souvenirs from it all as possible. The best one so far is [Leonardo] Bonucci’s. He’s top class – he’s Italian football for me! I managed to get his top and I do need to get that framed.”

Before and after the game, the football fan within is allowed to get excited but during the 90 minutes the level of professionalism shown in his debut season had a number of clubs sniffing about in the summer. The young left-back, who signed a four-year deal with Verona last summer, chose to ignore the rumours and speculation, says he was happy to stay put in the Serie A.

“It’s crazy when you see the names on the teamsheet,” he says when discussing the calibre of players he shares the pitch with each week. “But I am in there as another player and I need to keep focused on the game. For my family, though, especially my dad, who is the biggest football fan ever, it’s special. He is over all the time. My apartment has an upstairs and a downstairs and my mum and dad basically lived upstairs for half the year! They were red wine addicts by the end of it!

Doig receives the acclaim of coach Marco Baroni at Hellas Verona. (Photo: Alessandro Sabattini)
Doig receives the acclaim of coach Marco Baroni at Hellas Verona. (Photo: Alessandro Sabattini)

“I am now red wine daft as well and I never drank it before I went over there but now I'm cultured,” he smiles. “Now it’s all red wines and cheeses but that’s better than a few pints on a Saturday night. It’s another part of life there and we’ve embraced it.”

The language barrier has also been broken down enough for the coach Marco Baroni to be able to issue instructions in training without the aid of an interpreter. But while Doig is able to decipher the language and speak a fair bit of it, he sheepishly admits that his Italian accent still requires some work, revealing that it often leaves his hosts baffled.

Having done his talking on the pitch, since breaking into the Hibs first team as a teenager, the Edinburgh lad has proved himself fluent in the language of football. That earned him his move to Italy after just two seasons in the Hibs first team and his performances in Serie A were rewarded with a call up to the full Scotland squad this time last year. But, still waiting for his first full cap and with competition again strong in his area of the park, he is focused on the under021 side and their quest for a place at the Euros for the first time since 1996.

There were near misses in the play-off rounds for the 2004 and 2011 as Scotland lost out to Croatia and Iceland respectively but the qualifying campaign for Euro 2025 gets under way against Spain, on Monday, in Jaen, and having witnessed the success enjoyed by Steve Clarke’s men in their Euro qualifiers there is optimism and belief in the ranks. "I think the Scotland national team have been putting down landmarks everywhere and they have been absolutely flying so the under-21s can look up to that and take real belief and encouragement from that. It shows that Scotland can do it. We are a top nation now and we can't shy away from that, we need to want to qualify and that has to be the goal for us.”

The Spanish under-21s finished runners up in this summer’s European Championship, losing out to England in the final, which demonstrates their quality, and the heat will be an added factor, but Doig is adamant that there is burgeoning talent in the Scottish squad, as well. "This is a baptism of fire in the qualifiers. I haven't even thought about the temperatures although I will be used to them more than some of the boys who still play in Scotland. The heat alone will be a shock to some of them. We have been watching clips of Spain and they are a top side and they play good football. They have got talents within their squad but so have Scotland. We have a lot of top players playing first team football and we have got a belief within the squad. This is a good group that has been assembled and it is an exciting game and we are raring to go. We are ready for it.”

And, like so many of his team-mates he sees it as an audition for any vacancy that may arise in the full squad. Especially with the Euros in Germany serving as a timely incentive. “There will be people watching and I think these are the games that you need to perform in. That goes for everyone in the team. You have to want to show your ability and the goal is to try and win. They are a good team but we could go there and beat them. We have watched Scottish under-21 teams in the past claim big scalps in the past so I think that gives us a belief to go and do it.”