Tue, Sep

PLAYERS returning to haunt clubs is a familiar notion, although one might have expected, like Dundee, that the width of an ocean would offer protection enough from any perceived grievances of Jason Scotland.

Last weekend, however, the Trinidad and Tobago international’s entry into the Dundee derby proceedings is generally accepted to have been the decisive factor in Dundee United’s salvaging of the match, having trailed 2-0 at half-time.

For Dundee it was the second time they have fallen victim to the player known in his homeland as "Rockets" - he packs a gun in both feet apparently - but who in his adopted home has come to be known as "Spanner".

This refers to one outrageous piece of skill, showcased recently by Ronaldinho against Celtic but patented first by the 25-year-old Scotland in training this season at United and which featured in a game against Motherwell last month. "He does a thing called the Spanner, the thing Ronaldinho did, flicking the ball from his right foot to left," says his manager, Ian McCall.

"It is unbelievable. It’s just incredible. He did it in a game against Motherwell, went past two players right in front of our punters. Now that means immediate adulation, no matter what. The fans adore him."

But until hitting consecutive strikes against Motherwell and Livingston and then his cameo in last week’s derby, Scotland was in danger of being remembered as a one-trick pony. Although shielded from the expectation saddled upon his compatriot Collin Samuel, Scotland was still expected to bring something more to the party than a nifty flick.

In the event both he and Samuel struggled, with McCall seeming less and less eager to make excuses for them. They know they have fallen short he said eventually, when he could be bothered to explain their continued absences from the first-team starting line-up.

Indeed, by this late stage in the season one might have at least expected Scotland to total more appearances than the squad number on the back of his shirt - 20. Instead, 14 league games played hides a more startling statistic - only five starts.

It is not what was expected of "Rockets", or "Spanner", or the man who also answers to the more straightforward, and locally-sound, handle of "Scotty".

In January last year he scored twice for a Trinidad and Tobago President’s XI against a Dundee side touring the islands during the winter break. Most reckoned this impressive display would have him winging his way back to Dundee, an extra body in the Dens Park club’s cargo of players.

Instead, Dundee plumped for another local who featured against them that day, Brent Sancho. It was something the Dens manager Jim Duffy perhaps rued as he watched Scotland turn the game on Sunday.

"Jim Duffy did not say anything to me in Trinidad and Tobago after I scored twice against his team," says Scotland. "Maybe if he had I might now be at Dens Park.

"I thought I had impressed him. But I am in Dundee now anyway, and that is fate working I guess." It has, though, clearly taken time for the Trinidadian to adapt to the country which gifted him his surname, the source of which he can trace only so far back as his grandfather.

At the end of next month the striker will be attempting to spear Scottish hopes during a friendly match scheduled for Easter Road. It is tempting to point out that at least one Scotland is doing it on the international front, with the player’s performance in a 2-1 defeat to Finland last season earning rave reviews in his homeland.

He took advantage of the start offered due to a protest from 19 senior players, who were upset at being what they believed was financially under-valued. Trinidad and Tobago players are famed for knowing their worth, and Scotland is no different. As Lasana Liburd wrote in the Trinidad and Tobago Express about Scotland: "No extra marks for humility, but then he is aiming to be a top athlete and not a reverend."

This dream he will continue to chase at Tannadice, with the two-year deal he signed last summer containing a clause which stated that if either party wanted a way out after just one season, the second year could be revoked. Neither does.

Scotland has come good at the right time, although McCall insists letting the player go was never in his thoughts. "There was a trigger in [the deal] that we could let him go, but that won’t be happening," said the manager. "It’s just taken him time to adjust to the pace of the game. It’s 100mph.

"I said when I signed him, he makes the type of angles you don’t see from Scottish players. He strikes the ball with both feet. He just needs time to adjust to one, the pace of the game and two, the climate. He understands this. I took him aside before the derby and told him this, and he agreed.

"He’s quite smart. He’s not like Collin Samuel, who is very immature. I don’t mean that in a bad way. He is just very young for his age, whereas Jason has been in the army for four years. He is quite a street-wise guy. He knows the score. He is desperate to do well, and if he keeps progressing he has the chance to come through and be one of the main strikers here."

McCall admits that of the two Calypso strikers he signed in the summer, the lesser known Scotland - who arrived from the Trinidad and Tobago army side Defence Force - has fared better than the previously much vaunted Samuel.

"It’s Jason who has come through a little more," he said. "Collin has come on in the last month again, and is looking the part a bit more. I am thinking about putting Collin out on loan for a season or for half a season. But I think Jason by the start of next season might be really ready to play."

The confidence that Scotland clearly lacked at the start of a season he found initially bewildering has now returned, although probably not thanks to his agent, Mike Berry. Before Scotland’s first strike last month he would harass him with the plea: Can you not at least just score a goal? As if his client wasn’t trying. But he is, Scotland assures, his old self again, comfortable around his team-mates both on and off the field.

Asked who he hangs around with, he rather worryingly replies: "Charlie." That will be Charlie Miller, then. This, though, is the modern-day Charlie Miller, someone who his manager admits is now just a normal footballer who likes a few pints rather than the out-of-control madcap on a mission to destroy his career. "I have fallen in with a couple of guys like Charlie and Chris [Innes]. We go out and have a good time, and Brent Sancho too. We all live five minutes way from each other. Brent knows a couple of Dundee guys and I know a couple of United guys, so we’ll go out together."

But when it comes to the derby games, he says, the friendships across the great divide dissolve. Scotland proved this by giving Sancho and his Dundee defensive colleagues a torrid time, something which has encouraged interest in his fortunes back home.

"Everyone has been calling me," he continues. "There is good coverage of the SPL in the papers back home. They talked about me coming on and doing brilliantly. Everyone wants a Jason Scotland jersey back home. The game was on here on BBC 1 so I hope everyone was watching. I hope everyone remembers Jason Scotland, who came on against Dundee and changed the atmosphere."

Remembering his name is the easy part. The task for Scotland is continuing to convince those suddenly awakened to his talents of the reason why we must.