Neil Warnock’s assistant stumbled across Callum Paterson by accident more than a year ago. Since then, the Cardiff City manager has been desperately trying to sign this rampaging full-back from Hearts.
He finally got the 22-year-old’s signature on paper yesterday as Paterson agreed a three-year deal with the English Championship club. He leaves Hearts with his contract expired, £400,000 training compensation agreed, plus a 15 per cent sell-on clause inserted in the deal at the player’s request.
Paterson won’t be fit until around October as he recovers from medial and cruciate ligament damage. Warnock is thoroughly convinced the wait will be worth it. During a brief spell as Rotherham United manager last year, he sent Mick Jones – now his Cardiff assistant – north on a scouting mission which unearthed much more than the pair expected.
“Mick went to look at a player for me over a year ago,” recalled Warnock, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “I asked him about the player and he said: ‘Nah, not really for you – but I’ve seen one that’s made to measure for you, gaffer. You will love him.’ He was talking about Paterson.
“He said he was full of enthusiasm, he gets up and down the pitch, he can score a goal in the opposition box and he can play two or three positions. Mick said: ‘I don’t know whether you can get him but you ought to try.’
“We made enquiries but it wasn’t possible to do anything at the time. It’s taken a while but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages. The injury sort of thwarted it a little bit but, in some respects, it has helped me get him.
“He had a few clubs in for him even though he’s not going to be fit till October. I had him down to talk to him to try an impress on him what he would be getting at Cardiff. I wasn’t sure about his clothes, though. I said he’d get the p*** taken out of him with some of his dress sense! Other than that, he was a good lad.”
Warnock may be 68 but he clearly retains a sharp sense of humour. He also relies on his own sense of judgment when deciding whether to sign a player. A man of many clubs, he knew instantly from the moment he met Paterson that he would be an asset in the Welsh capital.
“I just like him. I met him and, you know when you get a feeling? That was it for me. The injury was probably a little bit worse than some but I just feel like giving him a chance. At my age, I’m not too worried about what’s happening in two years’ time!
“He’ll fit in well because he’s a confident lad. I just like the look of him because I’ve watched him a lot over the last 12 months. I think he’s got a good future if he can overcome this injury obstacle and get back to full fitness. Scotland could benefit as well.
“I think the compensation fee is realistic and Hearts have got a sell-on as well. We wanted to do the right thing there because I like Hearts and I like Craig Levein, the director of football, who I know from his time at Leicester.”
Paterson was determined for some time to continue his career in the English leagues after seven years at Tynecastle. He scored 38 times in 162 appearances there and had a list of suitors on both sides of the border. Rangers were credited with an interest but the full-back with a keen eye for goal always saw his next destination being south.
He also has his international career to prioritise having become Scotland’s first-choice right-back before injury struck last December. Warnock is confident he will return to Gordon Strachan’s squad given time to find fitness and settle in at Cardiff.
“I do see him as a mainstay with Scotland going forward because I don’t see much better than him,” continued the Bluebirds manager. “That’s the next challenge for him now, to get fit and get in our first team and then get back in the Scotland squad.
“I hope it can work both ways for both parties – my trust in him and him coming with me. I just got a good feeling about him when I met him. He’s my kind of player, really.”