JASON SCOTLAND may be the victim of his own success, but the striker insists he is working harder than ever before to live up to everyone’s expectations.
Add the fact Scotland missed the entire pre-season after summer stomach surgery and you would think the Trinidad and Tobago international might be getting plenty of pats on the back.
Boss Roberto Martinez and his team-mates certainly aren’t complaining. And the player himself definitely doesn’t think his goal tally is letting him down at the moment.
But, such are the standards he set last season, the Swansea City faithful and various pundits still expect more from Scotland.
And, every time he scores, the hope is it will be the start of the sort of run that made him League One’s top scorer in the last campaign.
With his total of 29 goals, including six strikes in his opening 10 games, and a spell of 12 goals in as many matches at one stage, there’s good reason why Scotland was lauded as one of the most prolific finishers outside of the Premiership during the 2007-08 season.
The acid test then became whether or not he could continue such goal-scoring exploits after the step up to the second tier.
With just one goal in the Swans opening 10 games this season, doubts started to grow. But, with the aforementioned stomach injury firmly behind him, a superb double against league leaders Wolves at the start of October led many to believe the real Jason Scotland had arrived in the Championship.
Two untimely trips away with Trinidad and Tobago put paid to that theory, though. And, after only two goals in his next 12 games, pressure started to mount again.
Then came another superb double, this time against Barnsley on Tuesday. Now the question again is whether Scotland can push on and satisfy the fans’ demands.
“Sometimes I think about it and ask myself how much people actually want from me,” he joked. “They probably think I set a high standard last season so they expect the same in the Championship.
“It’s almost as if they want me to score 25-30 goals this season as well. But chances are much harder to come by in this league.
“When I get them I’m confident I will take them. I still want to hit the 20-goal mark as well, so I will definitely be working hard to get as many as possible.
“Obviously I want to score more goals. But having seven already is still a good return for this stage of the season.”
Scotland himself admits his time away on international duty may have contributed to the stop-start manner of his season.
But, with the chance to play in the 2010 World Cup on the line, turning down his country simply isn’t an option.
And it’s not as if he thinks his time with the Soca Warriors is the main reason goals have been more difficult to come by.
The standard of opposition is, as expected, much higher and space is obviously at a premium to get shots away.
Scotland has also been subjected to special treatment from the majority of the Swans opponents this season.
He is widely regarded as one of Martinez’s star men and teams do their utmost to keep him quiet.
“When you hear managers like Barnsley’s Simon Davey talking about how he told his players specifically to mark me tightly, you can see that it’s going to be more difficult for me this year,” said Scotland.
“But I like the battle and it brings out the best of me.
“I get one or two opportunities each game and I just have to take them. It’s hard though because everyone knows I am a goalscorer and defenders mark me much closer.
“I always thought I would still get chances, though. It’s just that I knew they wouldn’t come as frequently as they did last year.”
Scotland’s international career has been the subject of much focus this week.
But, as for his Trinidad and Tobago commitments, he added: “Now I have a good run without international breaks, so I think I can peak in terms of energy levels. For the last couple of games I have put in some good shifts.
“The trips do take a bit out of you. So when I come back the gaffer doesn’t always want to play me straight away, he knows it will take a while for me to recover.
“It takes a bit of time to get the best out of me when I come back. But it’s my country and I will always want to play for them.”
Scotland will be looking to continue his goal hunt against high-flying Sheffield United today.
But it’s the team ethic that counts at Swansea and, after four draws and a defeat in their last five games, Martinez’s men need to get back to winning ways.
Scotland said: “We all know our performance wasn’t good enough against Barnsley.
“But we will be looking to put that right today and hopefully we will get the result we want.
“After so many draws, it’s a game we must win to get back towards the play-offs.”