Harry Paton may only be 19-years of age, but, the central midfielder has lit up the fourth-tier of Scottish football in season 2017/18. After impressing for Stenhousemuir, the on-loan Hearts player is hoping to head back to Tynecastle with the satisfaction of achieving promotion in his first full season as a professional football player.
The Canadian has joined a list of players playing within the SPFL structure – with Hearts team-mate Marcus Godinho, Inverness’ Charlie Trafford, ex-Rangers winger Fraser Aird and on-loan Raith forward Dario Zanatta amongst the notable names to be taking part within Scottish football this year.
“I moved to Scotland in the summer of 2016, joining Hearts from Fulham. I had been playing in their Under-18 and Under-23 sides but I came up to Edinburgh to try and break into the first-team picture up here. My main aim was to try and get some top-team experiences.
Last season was really positive for me. I was in and around the first-team squad at Hearts – I managed to get onto the bench for one of the matches against Celtic too, so, that was great. I played a couple of matches in the Irn-Bru Cup last term against Stirling Albion and Elgin City and I really enjoyed them; it gave me the taste of what men’s football was like and that encouraged me on this campaign.”
The midfielder, who will be 20 later on this month, joined Brown Ferguson’s side in the summer transfer window, as Paton looked to improve further in SPFL Ladbrokes League Two.
“I spoke with Hearts in pre-season and they wanted me to get out there and play professionally: they wanted to see how I could handle the step-up in standard as I would be playing at a much higher level. The whole idea was to send me out on loan and hopefully I could improve and get better and I certainly feel that is the case.
I have done everything I could to do well for Stenhousemuir while I have been at the club – I got into the PFA League Two Team of the Year which shows how well I have done this campaign and I am really proud of the steps I have made over the past few months. It has been great to make so many appearances  and score 9 goals already this season. I have really benefitted from playing so many matches; I feel I have got better at not just scoring goals but creating chances for others, too.”
Promotion was the target at the outset, with the Ochilview side just 180 minutes away from an instant return to League One.
“I remember speaking to the gaffer at the beginning of the season and he told me and the rest of the boys that promotion had to be our aim this year. We have worked hard all season to get to where we are; we have a great side and I believe we have the squad capable enough to take us through the final, although we know it won’t be easy as Peterhead are a good team as well.
The boys were speaking at training tonight about our record against them this season [3 wins, 1 defeat in the Warriors favour], but, we know how much they will be up for the fight also. It was slightly different against Queen’s Park as we haven’t faced them this term, so, it was a bit like going into the unknown a little, while, both teams know how each other play and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. We have prepared well and now it is all about us going out onto the park this evening and making sure we perform well.”
Celebrating success at the end of his first full campaign in senior football would be the icing on top of the cake for the Jambos loanee.
“I think us playing at home first is great as it gives us a chance to get a good foothold within the match and then take the tie to their place, hopefully with a positive result and performance behind us. It is definitely encouraging to start the two legs off at home.
So far, my career has been good, but, this is my first year where I have stepped into men’s football and tried to achieve something: to get to the play-offs in a league which means something and you need to win each week has been very satisfying – compared to playing in the Development League where the games aren’t as intense. It’d be great to cap this spell of my career off with promotion and that is what I am aiming to do over the next two matches with Stenhousemuir.”