|A PLAYER AT THE CROSSROADS||10th April 2004|
Just a year ago Eric Paton was very much a player at the crossroads! Should he re-sign for Queens or move on to further his career elsewhere. It was a big decision but Eric is convinced he made the right choice by signing on the dotted line for another year.
He had joined the club in July 2002 and had a dream debut in Queens' opening match in the First Division. Recalls Eric "We beat Clyde 2-1, I scored a goal and I'm sure I also picked up the 'Man of the Match' award that afternoon. Over the next three months I was in and out of the side but by November I had established a regular first team place for myself. I scored in a 3-0 win against St Mirren and again in a 2-2 draw up at St Johnstone and thought I was doing fine.
"The number 7 shirt was mine all the way through to February but then I lost my place again. From then until the end of the season I spent most of my time languishing on the subs bench which was so frustrating and depressing so in the close season it was decision time.
"I was in two minds whether to stay or not and had a long discussion with John Connolly who eventually coaxed me into signing a new one year contract which I have never regretted. He told me I'd be wearing the number 2 shirt and playing as an attacking right-sided full-back which was O.K. by me for I was willing to play anywhere as long as I was getting a game. I'd played in a similar role with Clydebank, so I agreed to give it a go and apart from a League Cup tie at Stenhousemuir and missing the recent Raith Rovers game owing to flu, I've started every match this season and I'm really enjoying my football again".
Now 25, Eric was born and raised in Glasgow and was a regular in his school team, Cryston High. He also turned out for Lanarkshire Schools Select but at the early age of 15 was snapped up by Hibs. "It was Alex Miller who signed me" he said "But in my five years with the Hibees I played under four well-known managers, the other three being Jocky Scott, Jim Duffy and Alex McLeish. However, being a Premier League side there was a lot of competition for places so I only managed a handful of first team games.
"But it was an experience being at Easter Road and there were no shortage of jokers like 'Yogi' Hughes, Chic Charnley and Darren Jackson with Michael O'Neill and Shaun Dennis not far behind".
Eric moved on to Partick Thistle in 1999 but his stay was brief and the following season was signed by Clydebank. He spent two years with the 'Bankies' before they disbanded and it was then he joined Queens. "Brian McColligan and I signed at the same time and it was actually 'Colly' and myself who persuaded Alex Burke, a team-mate of ours at Clydebank, to come to Palmerston" he admitted.
"Apart from those lonely times on the sub's bench I've no regrets at moving to Palmerston" he said with a smile "The atmosphere in the dressing room is brilliant--second to none-- and we've had our fair share of 'characters'. Last season Andy Goram brightened up proceedings with his jokes and patter and tales of his adventurous love life--now Brian Reid has taken over the mantle as he relates stories of his times at Rangers and Blackpool.
"Our physio, Kenny Crichton, is a right one for practical jokes and is forever coming up with ideas to keep us amused on our overnight trips to places like Dingwall and Inverness. He had us all dressed up in kilts for his wedding a few weeks ago (even the gaffer). All the boys looked really well except for Sean (Sheepheid) O'Connor--a typical Englishman".
His most memorable game for Queens was earlier this season when we beat Caley Thistle 3-2 to go top of the table. "For a part-time club it was a remarkable achievement and to remain top for five weeks was magnificent" he reflected. And his most memorable goal? "That one I scored in my first game for Queens against Clyde". And his biggest disappointment? "Being on the bench for the Challenge Cup final".
Renowned for his 'set-piece' strikes, Eric is our answer to David Beckham. "I can't bend 'em like Becks" he concedes "But I practice free-kicks at training and do my best". However it's Liverpool's Michael Owen that he admires most yet his all-time sporting hero is the one and only, Tiger Woods (not Gary Wood by the way). "It's amazing how easy he makes golf look, I could watch him for hours". A keen golfer himself, Eric plays off an 8 handicap at Crow Wood and enjoys beating the 'Tan Man', Derek Lyle.
Having played under many famous managers we put Eric on the spot by posing the question 'How do you rate John Connolly?' "Very highly" was the reply " I think his record speaks for itself and I have a great deal of respect for him. He's got no favourites and if you're not producing the goods you're not in the team. Simple as that. When we need a rollicking, like half-time at Motherwell a few weeks ago, he can certainly dish it out and doesn't hang back but when it's over it's over and that's how it should be. He gives praise where praise is due and defends his players when needed.
"But we're so fortunate at Palmerston to have a superb 'back-room' staff as well. 'Scottie, Warren Pearson (our coach) and Kenny Crichton work so hard and so do all the other coaches in charge of the youth teams. It's a genuine family atmosphere. Getting back to the gaffer himself there's a motto he picked up from Drumchapel which he's always drumming into us. 'Hard work can beat talent when talent doesn't work hard'. Very true words indeed!"
So herewith ends the saga of Eric Paton a player with so much natural talent of his own. A year ago, 'out in the cold' but now one of our most consistent players and a strong contender for the annual 'Player of the Year' award. What a difference 12 months can make!