WHEN Harry Paton signed for Motherwell in a short-term deal back in April, Fir Park fans weren’t quite sure what they were getting.

The midfielder had been without a club for almost a year since leaving Ross County, and had gone back home to Canada as he tried to deal with personal issues and niggling injuries that had been hampering his career.

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell though knew exactly what he was getting, and his faith in Paton is now being handsomely rewarded, with the 25-year-old in fine form as part of an impressive midfield quartet for the Steelmen.

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Now fully fit and with his focus back on football, Paton has also been rewarded this week with a recall to the Canada squad for next week’s friendly against Japan, and he is immensely grateful to his manager for giving him the platform to show his undoubted talent.

“He’s been a massive influence on my career,” Paton said.

“He was the one who brought me into Ross County and coached me and he brought me here too.

“The manager does a lot of work behind the scenes during training and after training, with me and with others and I’ve benefited from that.

“He congratulated me on my call-up. He’s happy for me but he definitely deserves some of the credit for putting his trust in me.

“I got an e-mail from the Canadian FA on Tuesday. I’d been named in their preliminary squad but now I’m in the squad that’s travelling to Japan.

“I was aware there was a camp coming up and I was hoping I’d be part of it, but it was huge to be told I’m selected and I can’t wait to join up with them.”

Paton was patient on his road back into the professional game, waiting for the opportunity that felt like the best fit. He is more than certain he has found it in Lanarkshire, after what he admits had been a difficult year after charges brought against him by a former partner – accusations he always denied - were dropped.

“I just wanted to go home to Toronto and see my family,” he said.

“I was training with Toronto FC at the time with a view to maybe joining the club, but nothing came of it.

“There were a few other options on the table but coming back here was definitely the right thing for me because Scottish football really suits my style.

“It wasn’t too difficult to get back up to speed because I’d been working really hard all the time I was away. Then I was thrown in at the deep end against Hibs, played 40 minutes in my first game back and thought I did really well.

“Looking back, that was maybe too much too soon because that’s where I picked up the groin injury but I’m fine now and looking forward to all the matches coming up.

“I’ve really been enjoying my football here. Working with the manager is great because he does bring the best out of me. He’s helped me find consistency, which is a big thing for me.”

A first cap for his country has also been a long time in coming for Paton, with Covid restrictions stymying his chances in the past.

“To be honest, if I were to win my first cap it would mean everything to me,” he said.

“I got a small sniff of it at the World Cup, although I didn’t actually get in due to the Covid protocols.

“Covid [also] prevented me from playing for the national team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup a couple of years ago, which was a tough one.

“I was quarantined for 14 days in Dallas and, although I trained with the rest of the guys afterwards, I wouldn’t have been fit until the quarter finals and it would’ve been too big an ask to throw me in at that stage.

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“Representing my country is a dream of mine – and my family – and, football wise, it would definitely be my proudest moment. Hopefully, I can get in the team and then stay there, and I’ll send that first cap to my parents.”

Motherwell will still be without the likes of Calum Butcher, Mika Biereth and Jon Obika as they travel to Livingston today, with manager Kettlewell earmarking the St Johnstone game after the international break as a more likely target for at least one or two of them to aim for.

But Paton is confident that his team will have more than enough about them to get back to winning ways after the defeats to St Mirren, Rangers and Celtic – despite his own personal jinx at the Tony Macaroni.

Paton has lost all four matches he has played at the venue, but echoing his manager’s thoughts from earlier in the week, he won’t be looking for any excuses if Motherwell fail to win on the plastic this afternoon.

“The pitch is the same for both teams, although I know they train and play on it all the time,” he said.

“We can’t use it as an excuse – we just need to go there and win the three points.

“I just want to keep performing well. We’ve played some really tough teams in the last few weeks.

“As a team, we’d have preferred some more points but, on a personal note, it’s nice just to be involved and playing well again.”