Callum Paterson today pledged full allegiance to Scotland despite being eligible to play international football for four different countries.
The Hearts full-back could represent England, South Africa or Zimbabwe but is determined to don the Scotland jersey as this is the country he calls home.
Paterson was born in London to a Scottish father and Zimbabwean mother. His grandfather is South African, meaning he is spoiled for choice when it comes to international football. There is no dilemma for the player, however. He won his first call-up to the Scotland senior squad last month and was on the substitutes’ bench against England. He is convinced he only wants to play for Scotland.
“I was born in London but I moved up when I was three so I see myself as Scottish,” he said. “So to be involved against England, where I was born, for my own country meant a lot. I actually had four choices. My dad is Scottish, my mum is from Zimbabwe and my grandad is South African. But Scotland is my country. I could play for all of those. But this is my home and who I would rather play for.”
A phonecall from national coach Gordon Strachan at the end of October was just the filip Paterson needed following his red card against Hibs. Days later, he joined the Scotland squad for matches against the Republic of Ireland and England and enjoyed one of the most exhilarating experiences of his young life.
“That call was the last thing I was expecting after getting a red card at Easter Road,” he admitted. “I was beating myself up about it afterwards, I couldn’t get it out of my head. So to then get a call from Gordon Strachan really helped me get back on my feet. He asked me what was going through my head against Hibs – it was red mist.
“That’s in the past now and hopefully I can move on. I trained with the full team a couple of times last year. We didn’t play for the 21s the night before so we were sent along to do the running for the first team. I really enjoyed that and to be part of it this time around was even better. It was great to be away. I really enjoyed it and I’m thankful to everyone who made it such a good experience.
“I learned massive amounts about the way certain people train and how they play, you can see the difference between the English Premier League and the Scottish one. The players are just bigger, fitter – and they obviously have more money! They are just more professional in the way they go about the game. It’s what everyone needs to look up to and aspire to.
“I didn’t know I would be on the bench for England until we got to the game. I was expecting to be in the background but when I walked in my strip was hanging up. That was a massive buzz. My family were all there. They were just happy to be there. They probably knew I wasn’t going to get on but they were there to support me all the same. Just being there, singing the national anthem and wearing the strip was massive. Hopefully I can go one better next time and get on the pitch.”
Strachan showed a certain amount of bravery in calling up Paterson and his Rangers counterpart Lewis Macleod while their clubs are playing outside Scotland’s top flight. “To get a call-up from any league is massive, it’s a huge thing to represent your country. Hopefully it shows the way this league is it’s not the bad teams who are in the Championship. There are good teams in both leagues,” said Paterson.
The defender’s focus has returned to domestic duty as Hearts look to continue their Championship title challenge against Queen of the South this afternoon. Last weekend’s 4-0 Scottish Cup loss to Celtic was a disappointment but those involved are adamant it will not affect league momentum.
“Results have gone well for us so far in the league. We are playing well and scoring goals so hopefully that will continue to be the norm throughout the season,” said Paterson. “The Celtic result won’t affect that. If anything it will make us more focused on winning the league. That’s what we set out to do at the start of the season.
“If we had got to the end of the season and won the Scottish Cup but finished fourth in the league everyone would see the season as a failure. But if we win the league and do nothing else, it will be a massive achievement by everyone.”