Callum Paterson: '˜I'd play anywhere for Scotland'

Such is Callum Paterson's self-deprecating nature, he would never describe himself as the perfect 10.

The former Hearts player has been an archetypal utility man throughout his career so far, operating at right-back, right midfield and as a striker­ during his five seasons with the ­Gorgie club.

Few, however, would have predicted Paterson would one day find himself deployed in the position generally regarded in modern football as the creative fulcrum of any side.

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But then again, there are very few managers quite like Neil Warnock, the indefatigable 69-year-old who currently has Cardiff City firmly on course for automatic promotion to the English Premier League.

Callum Paterson is looking forward to lining up against Costa Rica at Hampden tomorrow night. Picture: SNS.

Warnock has handed Paterson the attacking midfield role in the team and the 23-year-old is positively thriving. He has scored eight goals so far this season, three of them in Cardiff’s last three matches, and is one of the most in-form members of the Scotland squad preparing to face Costa Rica at Hampden tomorrow night.

“I’m playing in a different role, a little higher up the park, and it’s going well,” says Paterson.

“It’s down to the team making opportunities. I’ve been in the right place at the right time for the past few games so will hopefully keep it going.

“I’ve been playing just off the striker. I run about and press as many people as I can and then get in the box as much as I can.

Callum Paterson is looking forward to lining up against Costa Rica at Hampden tomorrow night. Picture: SNS.

“Like you say, the manager [Warnock] is old school. All the other teams around us in the Championship are playing the new style football with wing-backs and pass and move. But the old school seems to be working at the moment for Cardiff so he’s not going to change that any time soon.

“I’ve played in lots of different positions in the past. It doesn’t do me any damage to play in different positions. You get to learn different things about the game as you see it from different angles. I’m enjoying it. If I keep scoring and doing well, it’s only going to be a good season for me.

“There’s no point in pigeonholing yourself into one position on the pitch. If someone else is doing well, you might not get in the team. So I’m happy to get in anywhere at the moment.”

Paterson’s face breaks into a broad grin when he is asked if he feels ready to play in the attacking midfield position for Scotland.

“I’d love to play there but I’m not the most technical No 10 in the world,” he says. “I’m more of a punt and run kind of guy. So it probably won’t suit me for Scotland, to be fair. There are also some great midfield players in the squad who’ve been doing really well in their respective leagues for their respective clubs. So you’ve got to take it on the chin and play where you are played. I’d play anywhere for Scotland. I’d love to play at centre-half eventually. Everyone knows I’m not the best in one-on-one situations. But I love defending and I love getting up and heading the ball and running about, so that could be an ideal position for me.”

Paterson won the most recent of his five caps for Scotland back in November 2016 when he appeared as a substitute in the 3-0 defeat by England at Wembley.

The following month, just as transfer speculation was linking him strongly with a move to West Ham United, he suffered a serious knee injury after scoring Hearts’ opener in a 4-0 win over Kilmarnock two days after Christmas.

“That was a low point,” he reflects. “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 told me that, anyway.

“When you get an injury like that, you don’t get a scan straight away. You wait for the swelling to go down. Because it happened to me at Christmas time, everything was shut for a couple of days.

“So it was a horrible time when I was waiting for the scan, wondering if it could be nothing or everything. You have just got to surround yourself with positive people, think positive thoughts and get yourself in the right mindset.

“What helped me a lot was that I read a book called The Secret and that was the key. It is a little book that is full of quotes. It has got 365 different positive quotes for every day. Big Brad McKay used to pin one up on the wall every day at Hearts.

“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.

“There was the stuff about West Ham being interested in signing me in the January, but nothing was set in stone. Thankfully, Neil Warnock took a chance on me last June, when I was still doing my rehab, and thankfully I’ve been able to repay him for that.

“It shows that I’m strong-minded and am always positive. 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.”

Paterson’s instinctive joie de vivre has been there for all to see in recent weeks as he has indulged in some elaborate goal celebrations based on moves from the popular online computer game Fortnite.

“They are going down really well, actually,” he says with a laugh. “Even my mum sent me a text saying ‘Keep the celebrations going son!’ I need to keep them up. I play the game on the PS4. That gives me ideas for my celebrations. I am just 
trying to rattle them off and another one on Friday night 
would be nice.”