Ross County midfielder Harry Paton has set his sights on an Olympic dream as he pushes for international recognition with Canada.
Paton has represented his country up to under-20 level where he has one cap, and he was also part of the Canadian side which played at the CONCACAF under-17 Championship in 2015.
Having made a successful step up to the Premiership with County this season, Paton hopes to force his way into the national under-23 side in time ahead of next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.
Canada are among eight CONCACAF (North, Central American and Caribbean) nations aiming to reach the finals when qualifying takes place in March.
Two qualifying groups will be drawn next month, with the leading two teams in each section advancing to the semi-finals, and the two finalists ultimately qualifying for the Games in Japan.
Paton has plenty international motivation for the new year, and the 21-year-old said: “There hasn’t been anything confirmed. I’ve heard a few things about the upcoming Olympics with the under-23s, but nothing is fully confirmed.
“Hopefully, by playing in the Premiership games I have played pushes my name forward.
“I played under-17s and then a few matches for the under-20s and it is really enjoyable being part of the national set-up. I’d love to play for my country again.”
Paton has been in and out of the Staggies side this season, but made his first start in more than two months in the recent 4-1 home loss to Celtic, before keeping his place for last week’s 2-1 victory over Hibernian.
Former Hearts player Paton felt facing the recently-crowned Betfred Cup winning Hoops was a particularly valuable experience, adding: “I’m definitely learning and enjoying it. It has been really exciting for me and great to show the fans and everyone else what I can do and bring to the team. I’m just trying to kick on and keep doing my things.
“Before Celtic, I was told I was playing on the Friday and I was really excited and looking forward to it.
“It was a tough game, but enjoyable. I thought the boys did really well and the scoreline I felt wasn’t really a true reflection of the game.
“Playing against the best in Scotland was a great experience. It allows me to see things that work against them and things that don’t work against them.
“If you can do it against them, it is a good confidence boost.”
County aim to make it back-to-back home wins when they host Kilmarnock on Saturday, with Paton adding: “It is definitely an opportunity. The home games are always an advantage for us as teams won’t want to come up here and play.
“We need to use that advantage and get as many points as we can.”