Gold Cup-bound midfielder Harry Paton sees no reason why Ross County should not target the Scottish Premiership top six next season.
The 23-year-old midfielder will be looking to help fire hot-shots Canada to trophy glory from this weekend, but having impressed in Saturday’s 5-0 pre-season win at Elgin City, he aims to return to the Highlands and drive County up the table.
Paton looking up from day one
The Staggies, whose Premiership campaign starts on July 31 against double cup-winners St Johnstone, are looking to avoid being relegation candidates once more.
Under John Hughes, they rattled off three wins on the spin to secure their place in the top-flight.
FT | ELG 0-5 ROS
A brace from Callachan and goals from White, Samuel and Wright give Malky a win on his first outing as Staggies Boss! pic.twitter.com/swKJyR2k5g
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) July 3, 2021
With new manager Malky Mackay overseeing a summer overhaul, Paton stressed: “With the fixtures coming up, we should be competing with these top teams.
“We should be looking to get into the top six and I don’t think that’s unrealistic for us.
“Each week is going to be a tough week, like it always is, but I am looking forward to it. We seem to pick up the points against the top six sides and we just want to do that again this season.
“I don’t think anyone should underestimate us. We left it until the last day last season, but we have strong players and the gaffer will be strengthening the squad further. There are big things to come from us.”
Changes embraced by midfielder
Looking at the weekend win, which came via a double from Ross Callachan and goals from Dominic Samuel, Jordan White and Matty Wright, Paton said: “We have come back together and this was a new formation.
“We definitely got the hang of it. I felt really good and the boys put a good shift in.
“Whatever the gaffer asks of me within the team I’ll do. I was a little bit deeper against Elgin. I just love getting on the ball. I was unlucky not to get an assist on a goal, so it was good.”
Ontario-born Paton earned his first full call-up for Canada, who are widely fancied for the Gold Cup, taking place in the United States. They kick off against Martinique on Sunday.
The former Hearts youth player cannot wait to show he can handle the heat on such a big stage.
He stressed: “It is a proud moment for me and my family. It is something I have looked forward to and worked towards my whole life. To finally get the call-up is an amazing feeling.
“I can’t wait to get the red colours on and compete for the cup. I want to show everyone in Canada what I can do and bring to the team.
— Harry Paton (@harry_paton98) July 1, 2021
“It’s a huge tournament for us, the equivalent to the Euros. We are definitely one of the favourites to compete and try and win it. We have a very strong side and I’m looking forward to it.
“The past couple of years I have been in and around the squad and been unlucky not to get into the final 23 or 24. Hopefully I get the chance when I am there.”
Mackay can help Paton succeed for Canada
Paton hopes input from new Staggies gaffer Mackay at County can help him achieve success with Canada in the future.
“The manager here with his international experience has been very good. He has only been here a matter of weeks, but he will definitely help me,” Paton added.