BIG IN­TER­VIEW

How Jamie Pater­son has got his ca­reer back on track at Hud­der­s­field

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

STOOD on stage in a swanky suite at Hud­der­s­field’s John Smith’s sta­dium, Jamie Pater­son clasped his Cham­pagne and awk­wardly ac­cepted the adu­la­tion.

An hour ear­lier, the 24-year-old had or­ches­trated the de­struc­tion of Charl­ton, cap­ping a dis­play of vi­sion and verve with a sweet strike to make it 3-0.

A bearded MC fired ques­tions. Pater­son wise-cracked back. A half­cut au­di­ence chuck­led in ap­pre­ci­a­tion. It has been a while since any­one paid the mid­fielder this much at­ten­tion. Or, in fact, any at all.

Ex­actly two years ago, Pater­son was in the form of his life for a Not­ting­ham For­est side chas­ing the Cham­pi­onship ti­tle.

Signed from Wal­sall six months ear­lier for a fee nudg­ing £1m, the young winger be­gan 2014 with an FA Cup hat-trick against West Ham. Next came goals against Bolton and Black­burn, a brace at Hud­der­s­field, a slew of spec­tac­u­lar strikes and twin­kling runs. By the end of the sea­son, Pater­son had 12 goals.

Spec­tac­u­lar

By then, though, Billy Davies was gone, sacked by a board weary of the mis­guided bitch­ing and bull­headed bel­liger­ence that sab­o­taged any chance of pro­mo­tion.

Stu­art Pearce ar­rived, along with £1.5m winger Michail An­to­nio. Used fit­fully at first, he even­tu­ally ceased to make the squad. Pater­son went from in­spi­ra­tional to in­vis­i­ble in the space of one sum­mer.

“I thought ev­ery­thing was go­ing gravy,” said Pater­son.“Then, all of a sud­den, I was in a po­si­tion where I wasn’t even play­ing.You’re just think­ing ‘What have I done?’”

Even when Pearce de­parted, Dougie Freed­man took a sim­i­lar stance. Ru­mours swirled that Pater­son had gone ‘big time’, hit cruise con­trol and taken his place for granted. Andy Reid was quoted as say­ing the young­ster “needed to get his feet on the ground”.

Pater­son, who joined Hud­der­s­field on loan in Septem­ber, nods at this. “At the time I prob­a­bly took it quite badly,” ad­mits the mid­fielder, a slight, wil­lowy fig­ure with pierc­ing blue eyes and a fluffy ex­cuse for a beard. “Ask any foot­baller – when they aren’t play­ing, they aren’t happy.

“The sea­son be­fore I’d done re­ally well, ended up top scorer. The next sea­son, I wasn’t in­volved at all. It didn’t feel fair. It was the first time that had re­ally hap­pened to me and maybe I didn’t re­act in the right sort of way.

“But you have to re­mem­ber, I was only 22 or 23. No­body was ex­plain­ing what I’d done. I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand how to re­act.

“That’s the prob­lem some­times. Foot­ball is a ruth­less busi­ness and there aren’t enough peo­ple who will pull you to one side, say what’s go­ing wrong and re­ally talk to you.

“If you aren’t in the start­ing XI, you’re just kind of brushed aside and ig­nored. As a young lad, foot­ball has al­ways been your life and you think to your­self ‘Why am I get­ting treated this way?’

“Peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate how hard foot­ball is men­tally.When you’re not fan­cied by a man­ager, and you don’t even get given a chance to change his opin­ion, it preys on your mind. “It starts with doubt­ing your­self, your game and your abil­ity. Then you start feel­ing anx­ious on the pitch.You get five min­utes at the end of a game and you try to im­press too much. That puts you at the back of the queue again. “It hap­pens to the best play­ers. I know that now. If I had my time again, I’d def­i­nitely try to re­lax and work a bit harder, which per­haps I didn’t do at For­est. But when you’re young and it hasn’t hap­pened be­fore, you don’t know how to han­dle it.”

Don’t the older heads help? At the time, For­est had old stagers like Reid and Jamie Mackie who’d suf­fered more than their own share of dips in form.

Pater­son smiles.“In foot­ball, ev­ery­one is out for them­selves,” he adds. “If you’re 17 and you’re hav­ing a rough time, the lads will prob­a­bly pull you and give a bit of ad­vice.

“I was 22-23, I’d played a lot of games. I wasn’t a kid who needed help, I was a threat to their place. It wasn’t their job to help me out and I wouldn’t have ex­pected them to.

“It’s all in your own head. That’s when you need your fam­ily and friends, peo­ple to stop you wor­ry­ing and get­ting anx­ious. Thank­fully I had that.”

Anx­ious

By Au­gust, the writ­ing was on the wall. A Car­ling Cup start and nine min­utes on the open­ing day forced Pater­son to ag­i­tate for a loan. Hud­der­s­field, who’d tabled a bid dur­ing his Wal­sall days, fi­nally got their man. And this time, Pater­son vowed not to let the demons win.

“I never lost the be­lief that I could score goals and change games at this level,” says the Coven­try-born star.“But I can’t lie – my con­fi­dence had taken a knock.

“When I came here, I told my­self that I had to give my­self a chance and not be so self-crit­i­cal. Even when I was out of the team for a bit un­der Chris Pow­ell, I tried to just en­joy train­ing, en­joy the time I was on the pitch and play with­out feel­ing pres­surised. That’s what I’ve learned.”

Now Pow­ell is gone, re­placed by David Wag­ner. As­sis­tant to Jur­gen Klopp at Dort­mund, the Ger­man’s ‘rock and roll’ foot­ball is go­ing down a storm, with the Ter­ri­ers now un­beaten in five and scor­ing goals ga­lore.“It just felt in­stant,” says Pater­son. “David took the shack­les off, put across re­ally clear ideas.We all knew that we had to change some­thing or we’d get rel­e­gated and we bought into him to­tally.The im­prove­ment has been rapid and that re­sult (the 5-0 win against Charl­ton) has been com­ing for a while.

“For me per­son­ally, he’s been great, too. He’s put his arm around me, given a bit of en­cour­age­ment and made me feel like the good player I know I can be.

“I feel like my old self again but let’s be hon­est – I’ve only had three or four good games so I’ve got to keep it up.”

And af­ter that? Pater­son’s loan runs to the end of the sea­son but For­est are openly will­ing to ditch a player whose deal does not ex­pire un­til 2018.Would he be up for a per­ma­nent switch to West York­shire in the sum­mer?

“I hon­estly try not to think about it,” he in­sists.“I don’t ask any ques­tions. I leave that to the clubs and the agents. As I said, I came here with the sole in­ten­tion of en­joy­ing my foot­ball and I don’t want any­thing to jeop­ar­dise that.

“It’s some­thing I’ll eval­u­ate in May but if it’s the right deal and ev­ery­thing goes well then yeah, it would be good to stay.”

Af­ter his ex­pe­ri­ences over the last cou­ple of years, you can un­der­stand why he’s tak­ing noth­ing for granted.

IDEAS: David Wag­ner, left, has made a big im­pact at Hud­der­s­field and, right, Pater­son in ac­tion for For­est

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