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Paterson is in the wings . . . or behind the striker

HIS name could hardly be more Scottish and soon he may have the international caps to go with it.

Jamie Paterson expressed an interest in playing for Scotland as a teenager and his form at Nottingham Forest has  since taken him to the cusp of a call-up to the senior squad.Picture: SNS
Jamie Paterson expressed an interest in playing for Scotland as a teenager and his form at Nottingham Forest has since taken him to the cusp of a call-up to the senior squad.Picture: SNS

Jamie Charles Stuart Paterson - Pato to his friends - was born in Coventry but qualifies to play for Scotland through his parents.

Given the 22-year-old's form for Nottingham Forest this season, that could happen sooner rather than later. Gordon Strachan will name his squad on Wednesday for the forthcoming friendly against Poland, and Paterson has a chance of being involved.

The forward has already met the national team manager, taking a photograph of him with a friend after bumping into Strachan in a restaurant, and soon they could be spending more time together given that Paterson is on the cusp of Scotland recognition.

It is a call for which he has been hoping for some time now. It was at Walsall that Paterson made his name, coming through the youth ranks at the League One club before establishing himself in the first team two seasons ago. A winger comfortable on either flank, but also capable of playing behind a central striker, Paterson improved steadily under the watchful eye of Dean Smith, the one-time Walsall youth coach who graduated to the role of first-team manager in 2011.

Early inconsistencies in his first season - when he came in for some criticism for a poor final ball - were soon ironed out, with Paterson's pace and trickery causing numerous problems for opposition defences. His goalscoring ratio improved dramatically too, Paterson reaching double figures in his final season at Walsall and creating a similar number of assists for others.

Smith's insistence on playing passing football worked in Paterson's favour as the ball was worked patiently through the midfield before being delivered to the man out on the wing.

Even in the early days, the prospect of Paterson one day playing for Scotland was a regular topic of discussion. Smith believes his former protege will be a Barclays Premier League player in the next year or so - either with Nottingham Forest or elsewhere - and thinks Strachan would be wise to cap him at the earliest opportunity.

"I certainly think Jamie would be ready for international football if the opportunity arose," Smith told Herald Sport. "He's one I put forward to the under-21s at Scotland and I know Ian McParland, the Forest youth coach, also recommended him. Jamie had intimated to me when he was 18 or 19 that he would be interested in playing for Scotland so we forwarded his case but nothing came of it. I think Scotland should call him up as soon as they can as he's getting a lot of attention at the moment."

Few have monitored Paterson as closely as Smith given the way the pair's career paths have mirrored each other. From an early age, the Walsall manager felt he had a player capable of operating among the elite. "When I first came to the club four or five years ago Jamie was in the system as a scholar," he added. "I took over as his youth team manager and in his first season he had a bad injury, a broken leg I think. But you could see right away what a talented player he was.

"He's come on in leaps and bounds all the time, and played every game for me last season. He's a player that can be trusted with the ball, he can always score goals and he's also got better with his defensive responsibilities.

"He can play anywhere really in the forward areas; wide left, right or in a No.10 role. He can carry the ball, he can go past people, he's comfortable with both feet, and he's got great balance. He even scored a header the other day and that's something he's not renowned for."

Perhaps surprisingly, there was no backlash from the Walsall support when Paterson moved on to Nottingham Forest last summer for a fee in the region of £1m, with most fans wishing him well as he stepped up a level. To date, the player has not looked out of place in the Championship and those who watch him regularly have noticed a marked improvement from the raw prospect who arrived seven months ago.

His hat-trick against West Ham United in the FA Cup was the obvious highlight but it has been his overall consistency - especially with players such as Henri Lansbury and David Vaughan out injured - that is said to have been his greatest contribution.

Smith takes an almost paternal pride at seeing Paterson do so well. "I had no doubts at all that he could go and play in the Championship," he added. "Nottingham Forest are probably surprised that he has adapted so quickly. I can see him only going higher in the rest of his career."

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