Rory Patterson ready to bridge that gap
He's the most talked about man in the Carling Premiership — and now his name will be on the lips of every Northern Ireland fan who makes the trip for the first international of 2010 next week.
That’s because Rory Patterson will also be heading to Tirana after banging in the goals that he hopes will now earn him a first international cap.
His manager, team-mates and media pundits have championed the Coleraine striker’s claims to be included in the party for Wednesday week’s trip to Albania.
And they haven’t fallen on deaf ears, with Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington hoping that he can transfer his superb form for the Bannsiders onto the international stage.
An amazing tally of 31 goals, including FOUR hat-tricks — one of which came as part of a four-goal haul against Glentoran back in November — aren’t all that has seen Patterson’s name hit the headlines since joining the Bannsiders last summer.
His decision to sign a pre-contract agreement which will see the 25-year-old join Glentoran next season brought more spotlight and he responded by going out and banging in four more goals in a 5-2 win over Crusaders the following afternoon.
Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington watched him net in the Co-operative Insurance Cup semi-final against Dungannon Swifts three weeks ago and it’s not just that final that Patterson is now looking forward to.
Tirana may not be a city that is on the wishlist of too many travellers, but Patterson will already be eagerly awaiting the departure of the flight, on the latest part of an amazing journey for the player who was ready to walk away from football as a teenager.
If he makes an appearance in Tirana Patterson will join the likes of Dessie Dickson, Terry Cochrane, Felix Healy, Raymond McCoy and more recently Stephen Carson on the list of players who have won Northern Ireland caps while playing for Coleraine in the last 40 years.
Amazingly Patterson never appeared for Northern Ireland at underage level, but was close to a call-up when close friend Paddy McCourt made his international debut against Spain way back in 2002. Both players were on Rochdale’s books at the time, but another man from Spotland — Lee McEvilly — appeared instead.
Patterson has won his call because he has vastly outscored any other player who qualifies to wear the green shirt this season — albeit in the Irish League.