Stuart Kettlewell feels Harry Paton is staking a serious claim for a role in the heart of Ross County’s midfield.
Canadian Paton came off the bench to net an extra-time equaliser against Partick Thistle at Firhill on Saturday, however was unable to prevent the Staggies falling to a 3-2 Betfred Cup defeat. Paton followed it up by scoring in a 3-3 draw against Motherwell’s reserves on Monday.
The 21-year-old largely struggled for game time after joining on a free transfer from Hearts last summer, and spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Stenhousemuir, but was rewarded with a new contract from co-managers Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson.
Kettlewell is a keen admirer of Paton’s midfield attributes and feels he is giving himself every chance of putting himself in the frame for Saturday’s Premiership visit of Livingston.
Kettlewell said: “Harry is an exciting central midfield player. He plays the position slightly differently from a lot of the others.
“We don’t want to heap too much pressure on him, but when you look at how he plays compared to some of the other midfielders, it is a different profile of player.
“He is so explosive from the midfield area of the pitch. He scores exciting goals and makes exciting runs. He ticks so many of the boxes we look for in a central midfielder.
“I think the fact we gave him a new contract off the back of not playing last season tells you everything we think of him.
“We think he’s come back a better player again. He has improved since pre-season.
“It then comes down to Harry to see if he can go and maximise his undoubted potential. Coming on and impacting the game as he did against Partick did him no harm whatsoever.”
Paton racked up a total of 53 appearances between two loan stints with Stenny, while he has made 11 outings for County so far.
Kettlewell feels Paton is becoming increasingly at home among County’s senior players, adding: “Harry had a couple of successful loan spells and did well for a couple of seasons. That’s brilliant experience.
“I always say I don’t think you have a voice as a player until you’re played 100 games.
“That has changed a wee bit now. A lot of people have a voice having played five or six games.
“The way I was brought up and schooled at Queen’s Park generally was you started to speak a bit when you’d played 50 games.
“By the time you’d played 100 games, you had an opinion on the game and started to speak with the experience of a senior player.
“Harry has 60 on the board now and that starts to progress from here.
“People will say that’s my old school way of thinking, but I think it has served a lot of us really well.
“We’ve got a lot of guys in our team that fit that format very well.”