Harry Paton reckons remaining in the Scottish Premiership is certainly no barrier to his hopes of living the World Cup dream with Canada this winter.
The Ross County midfielder was named in Canada’s 23-man squad for last year’s Concacaf Gold Cup, but catching Covid robbed him of the chance to make his international debut at the tournament.
Like all Canadians, Ontario-born Paton is thrilled to see the country qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
A 4-0 win against Jamaica last Sunday guaranteed Englishman John Herdman’s squad will be Qatar-bound from late November.
Paton, 23, has shelved thoughts of his club future beyond the summer, with County chasing a place in the top six, and explained his country’s coaches will consider Scottish-based stars – as shown by St Johnstone’s David Wotherspoon also being in contention.
Capped at U20 level with Canada, Paton said: “I am in my fourth year here and they (Canada) can see Scotland is a very competitive top-flight.
“David Wotherspoon also plays here and is involved. Playing here I can show what I can do. I don’t think it would affect it.
“My contract is up at the end of the season. But I am looking to finishing this season off. I am just focusing on the top six and playing the best football I can.
“I just want us to get as many points as we can and I want to add a few more goals. We will then see what happens.
“Staying here is definitely an option. This club has been amazing for me and I do love it in Inverness. We will see what comes over the next couple of months.”
Canada end 36-year World Cup wait
Paton is well aware how much of a stir Canada’s World Cup booking has caused in his home country.
He added: “I have watched a lot of videos back home. The country was so lively when we qualified and everybody is just so proud of what the team has done.
“It has boosted soccer and it is not just ice hockey anymore. It has been really good. The fans are really proud of the manager and players.
“It has been unbelievable – it has been 36 years since we were last at a World Cup finals.
“It has been a long time coming and there has been a lot of hard work through the years.
“The squad we have now is so talented and it is nice to be around it.
“I was lucky enough to get the call to be on standby for the most recent squad. It is nice to be involved and talked about.
“They did their job against Jamaica and it is a dream come true for the country, getting to the World Cup. I will be looking to push over the next couple of months to get into that final squad for the World Cup.”
Paton was youth at Tynecastle club
Paton, whose brother Ben signed a new deal at Ross County this week, is getting set to face visitors Hearts in the Staggies’ penultimate game before the league split.
County will need to bag at least a point today to keep alive their chances of nudging from their current position of seventh into the top half of the table before the Premiership breaks in half.
Right now, they are only one point behind top-half Hibs and Livingston, so a Staggies’ victory against Hearts would put them in a strong position ahead of their meeting with the Dons team, who themselves are aiming for a rise from 10th all the way into the top six over their next two matches.
Paton, who was on the books at Hearts in his late teens, is keen to underline how much he’s come on during his time in the Highlands.
He said: “I was a young boy at Hearts, in and out of squads. I didn’t get my foot in the door when I was there and it would be good to go out and do well against them and, if I could score a goal against them, it would be amazing.
“It is a team effort and we will all be looking to get the three points.”
Paton senses ‘big opportunity’
He’s relishing the chance to go all-guns-blazing in their bid to secure a top-six berth over the next seven days.
He said: “It is a big opportunity for the club to get into the top six.
“It is not going to be easy, because Hearts have been playing well this season and we know their threats.
“The last two games before the split are against some very good opposition, in Aberdeen and Hearts.
“I know Hearts won’t be looking forward to coming up. I know the atmosphere we have been getting here in the last couple of home games has been very good.
“The fans and the players have been enjoying it. It is a good environment for us and boosts us when our home crowd is here.”