Toasting Scotland the Brave.
Technically competent, strong as an ox, a deft dribbler and a fierce striker of the ball with either foot, Jason Scotland was well worth whatever trouble he may have given the coach when he arrived in Dundee...
Fortunate to be signed by Dundee United after scoring twice in a rare outing for his country against rival club Dundee, “Scotty” thrilled fans with his skills and personality but the tangible returns, he concedes, remained modest.
Worse, he could be a handful at times. Not that there was a super-sized ego to pamper or an uncontrollable, rebellious nature requiring circumspection; what was on offer was just a cheeky, fun-loving man-child in need of guidance.
Scotland’s pre-history as the product of a poor, single-parent household in Laventille who had grown up idolizing minor league players meant that he needed an occasional arm around his shoulder and a word of advice here and there about how to succeed in a professional environment.
Dundee United coach Ian McCall was happy to provide both. He was pleased too with Scotty’s start to life in the Scottish Premiership League (SPL) although he thought his Trinidad and Tobago recruit could work harder on the defensive side of the game. He made his feelings on the issue quite clear early on.
Despite the fact that he had only just graduated from Defence Force to the SPL, Scotland’s response was less than conciliatory.
“But,” he said, “(Brazil football legend) Ronaldo doesn’t track back.”
“You,” McCall replied, “are not f*****g Ronaldo!”
Scotland grinned; McCall glared. Not for long. Within seconds, both men were laughing heartily. McCall knew his point had been made; Scotty knew that the point had to be taken.
He was not a player who thrived on criticism or who could be left alone to get on with the job. For all his bluster, Scotland’s gifts need to be coaxed out.
Perhaps that was why his talent was rarely evident in Trinidad and Tobago’s colours.
The first time Scotland was selected on a national team—although just at Under-20 level—he was so proud that he slept all night in his red, black and white kit.
Coincidentally, a Scottish coach gave him his international senior debut. It was the late Sunderland standout and ex-Chelsea coach Ian Porterfield who called him up for a 15 November 2000 World Cup qualifier against Panama at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain. T&T won 1-0 but Scotty, then only 21, did not distinguish himself.
Trinidad and Tobago had qualified for the final CONCACAF group stage with two games to spare and Porterfield opted to experiment. In what was a golden era for strikers in the twin-island republic, Scotland found the going tough as just one of a battery of talented strikers.
During Porterfield’s year-and-a-half stint, he was so spoiled for choice that he capped all of Dwight Yorke (Manchester United-England), Stern John (Nottingham Forest-Eng), Jerren Nixon (SC St Gallen-Switzerland), Hector Sam (Wrexham-England), Gary Glasgow (Kansas City Wizards-US), Arnold Dwarika and Nigel Pierre (both Joe Public) and the now deceased pair of Mickey Trotman (Rochester Rhinos-US) and Rolston James (Jabloteh) while other capable attackers like Trent Noel (Police) and Angus Eve (Joe Public) were used in midfield.
By Scotland’s last international game, nine years later, he had managed a decent but unspectacular tally of eight goals from 21 starts and 17 substitute appearances.
He was only 30-years-old at the time and still an England Premiership player with Wigan Athletic but he rarely felt appreciated within the national set-up. Eventually, the thought of spending the five-day international break with his wife and daughters instead became too appealing.