HAVING scored three goals in as many games for a club that is second top of the English Championship and vying strongly for promotion to the Premier League and been recalled to the Scotland squad as a result, life is pretty good for Callum Paterson at the moment.

Yet, the contentment Paterson is currently enjoying has not come to him easily - he has had to go through the most difficult spell of his career to get to this juncture.

He suffered a cruciate ligament injury shortly after scoring for Hearts in a game against Kilmarnock towards the end of 2016 just when it seemed like he was on the brink of winning a move to a Premier League club down south.

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Being sidelined as he entered the final months of his contract at Tynecastle and unsure what the future held as a result proved to be an unsettling experience for a normally laid-back and upbeat individual as well as those around him. So much so, in fact, that even his pet cat was affected.

“Straight after I did the injury was a real low point,” he said as he looked back on the past 15 months and ahead to the friendly international against Costa Rica at Hampden tomorrow evening.

“Everyone knows a cruciate is nine months to a year. I only had six months left on my contract. It wasn’t a good situation for me, my girlfriend, my family. Even my cat Peanut was stressed! My missus likes cats. She told me he was stressed.

“When you get injured you don’t get a scan straight away. You wait for the swelling to go down. I got injured just after Christmas so everything was shut for a couple of days.

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"In that time I thought it could be everything, I thought it could be nothing. It is a horrible time, a horrible situation. You have just got to surround yourself with positive people, think positive thoughts and get yourself in the right mindset.”

So what was the secret to remaining optimistic throughout his time out? It transpires it was, er, The Secret. Paterson turned to one of the multi-million selling self-help books during his time on the sidelines.

“That was the key,” he said. “I read a little book that is full of quotes. It has got 365 different positive quotes. I read them whenever I fancied. A couple of boys I knew had read it before. They said to me to keep a hold of it and it would help me out. It is a good book to read.”

Paterson has shown great fortitude to come through the ordeal, win a move to Cardiff, get back playing and force his way into the Scotland set-up once again. He is looking forward with great confidence.

“It shows that I’m strong-minded,” he said. “Even when I was injured I was always positive. I had a smile on my face and I just got on with it. You play the hand you’ve been dealt at the end of the day. I am happy to back playing and back doing well.

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“Everything happens for a reason. I have said that in the past. Things can go well at other parts of the season. I am doing really well at the moment. I am happy to be part of Cardiff and happy to be back in the national fold and back playing. It keeps my mind positive and everything else positive.”

Paterson was being linked with a move to West Ham during the January transfer window before he suffered his injury. "There was a bit of paper stuff, but nothing was set in stone," he said.

Neil Warnock, the vastly-experienced English manager, signed Paterson back in June even though the versatile player was still sidelined with his knee problem.

The 23-year-old has repaid the faith shown in him by becoming a first team regular in south Wales and contributing massively towards their push to the English top flight.

He has netted eight times since November and his over-the-top goal celebrations - copied from the computer game Fortnite - indicate he is fully over his difficulties and is good spirits.

“They are going down really well actually," he said. "My mum sent me a text the other day saying ‘keep the celebrations going son!’ I need to keep them up. I play a game on the PS4. That gives me ideas for my celebrations. I am just trying to rattle them off.”

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Paterson believes playing in the Championship under Warnock, who has a holiday home in Dunoon and is delighted at his player's recall to the Scotland squad, has improved him.

“It is a massive league," he said. "It is a tough ask to play there week in, week out. I didn’t get much of a sniff at the start. The team was doing so well and I was just coming back from injury.

"But I have shoehorned my way into a position that I am doing well in and I want to try and keep hold of that. The team is doing really well at the minute. It is good to be part of it.

“The manager is obviously happy enough for me to get involved with the national team. It reflects well on him and how Cardiff are doing as a team. He is more than happy to get the boys away and get some time with the national team.”

Warnock has moved Paterson from right back to No10 with noteworthy results after making some far from complimentary remarks about his abilities as a defender, but nothing can dampen the player's mood at the moment.

"It’s nice to know that he’s thinking about me and talking about me," he said. "He’s old school. All the other teams around us are playing the new style football with wing-backs and pass and move. But the old school seems to be working at the moment so he’s not going to change that any time soon. I’m delighted just to be there. I’m just happy to have a smile on my face."