Chris Paterson the rugby player will always be synonymous with Edinburgh Rugby – the club he represented for 12 of the 13 seasons he spent as one of the most celebrated proponents of the game Scotland has ever produced.
However, it is often forgotten that he started his life as a professional rugby player back in 1998 with arch-rivals Glasgow, playing two games for the club before moving eastward along the M8 to join the capital outfit, and in his current guise as an individual skills coach he has worked hard in recent times to help the likes of Finn Russell, Duncan Weir and Stuart Hogg hone their kicking games.
So, when Scotland’s record cap holder is put on the spot with a hypothetical question about the possibility of Russell lining up a 40-yard, last-minute penalty which would clinch victory for Glasgow Warriors over Edinburgh in their 1872 Cup clash at BT Murrayfield this coming Sunday, the 37-year-old pauses for barely a nanosecond before giving his response.
“Yes I would [want him to kick it]. You want the individuals you work with to do well. People ask me now how I can replace playing and I get a real buzz from helping the people I work with become successful – it doesn’t matter whether that is the age-grade players I see in the academy or the professionals at Glasgow Warriors,” he states.
With former team-mate Duncan Hodge on the coaching staff at Edinburgh, Paterson’s services are not required at his former club, but he clearly retains a deep affection for the team and is delighted with their revival in recent months under South African head coach Alan Solomons – not least because it means that this festive season’s 1872 Cup double header has the making of a real Christmas cracker.
“Edinburgh’s abrasiveness up front, especially with their set-piece, has caused everyone they have come up against trouble, in Europe and domestically; while Glasgow’s ability to play an all-round game – with a variety of attacking edges and a sound defence – made them league champions last year. So, I think we’ll see a high level game,” he surmises.
“Will it be pretty? I hope so – but pretty can be many different things. With a national hat on, I think we’ll see a really intense game which will underline how well placed Scottish rugby is at the moment.”
It is the hard-earned privilege of retired players to remember their own exploits through the prism of rose-tinted spectacles, and Paterson clearly has fond memories of some epic tussles between Edinburgh and Glasgow over the years. But, to his credit, he also recognises that a large chunk of his career fell into a period when professional rugby was struggling to find its feet in Scotland, meaning that too many seasons came and went within a blur of mediocrity.
As an indication of how far things have advanced in the last ten years, it is worth pointing out that when Paterson kicked 13 points in a 28-12 victory for Edinburgh over Glasgow in September 2005, there was a crowd of only 2,502 at Murrayfield to witness the match. Edinburgh finished fifth in the Celtic League (as it was then known) that season, while Glasgow finished rock bottom.
Last year, the corresponding fixture attracted 15,810 fans, with Glasgow finishing top of the table and Edinburgh ended up eighth but well in the hunt for a Champions Cup qualifying sixth-place finish before losing their way during the final few weeks of the campaign.
“I can remember being really angry after losing at Firhill a couple of times, which was always a hard place to go with the crowd on top of you and a real edge to the atmosphere; I can remember Allan Jacobsen going under the posts in the last play of the game at Hughenden, with his hand up in the air as he dived over the line; and of course we had a few big wins at Meadowbank,” Paterson reminisces.
Paterson is then asked his opinion on which team he expects to emerge with the silverware, and this time his response is far from immediate. “I think the team which wins on Sunday wins the cup, and I certainly know who I think will win, but I’m not telling you,” he reveals, after a very long pause.