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Hamilton goal scorers Tony Andreu (left) and Jason Scotland celebrate their team's promotion at Easter Road

JASON SCOTLAND last night revealed relegating Hibs was all the sweeter given FIVE Easter Road heroes left his football career hanging in the balance almost a decade ago.

The Trinidad and Tobago international’s hopes of renewing a work permit after two seasons at Dundee United were scuppered when a six-man panel – including Pat Stanton, Tony Higgins, Murdo MacLeod, Peter Cormack and Tommy McIntyre – rejected his bid back in 2005.

However, Scotland settled scores yesterday as the veteran Hamilton Accies striker sparked an astonishing comeback from a 2-0 first-leg play-off deficit with a 13th-minute finish before converting one of the spot-kicks that sealed promotion.

The 35-year-old made the trip to Germany in 2006 as part of his country’s World Cup squad but admitted events at Easter Road yesterday will always live long in his memory.

He said: “In terms of wins in my career, this one is right up there as one of the most important.

“It was my first play-off. I was at a World Cup and didn’t play but getting there was incredible for me.

“But winning this tie, after losing the first leg, was amazing. Hibs are a Premiership team so this is right up there with my greatest achievements.

“I don’t think anybody gave us a chance coming here today. But we knew if we scored the first goal things would change and that’s what happened.

“We knew the fans would get on their backs and the players would start to get nervous.

“It’s really, really good times and the scenes after the game with the fans were unbelievable.”

The former St Johnstone, Swansea City and Wigan striker took some stick from the home support yesterday afternoon but insisted he had no gripe with them – only some of their former players.

He said: “I don’t have anything against the Hibs fans. But on a six-man panel, five of the guys were ex-Hibs players and they said I wasn’t good enough.

“But in my career I’ve been to the World Cup and played in the Premiership. I went for a couple of million pounds!

“I’m now 35 and still doing it – so am I not good enough? I just wanted a chance to play.

“I don’t know the guys who said I wasn’t good enough. But I was disappointed.

“It’s water under the bridge now but it is in my mind because I remember the pain when I was coming back from the airport after coming from Trinidad and Tobago and I couldn’t get into the country because I didn’t have a work permit.

“Then I got into the country and applied for the work permit and didn’t get it.

“I was staring down the barrel of my career. Obviously things changed – but it was a really, really bad time in my life. Everything happens for a reason.

“If I saw them now I would probably just shake their hands. I went on to do well in my career but at the time it was a step backwards.

“I wanted to prove them wrong and I am delighted to have done that.”

Scotland doesn’t know if he will still be around to play in the Premiership next term but believes Hamilton – back in the top flight after a three-year absence – can survive if they get the blend of youth and experience right.

He added: “I talked to the gaffer and said I wanted to see how the season went. I wanted to see if I could get over the line and get to the Premiership.

“I’ve done that but I’m 35 now and in the last 20 minutes I couldn’t move I was so stiff!

“So I don’t know how I’ll feel in the next month. I’ll just relax, enjoy my holidays and see what happens after that. We play some good stuff but the gaffer will know he has to bring some experienced players in.

“But Hamilton have a policy of keeping young players and giving them a chance. I think we’ll need some fresh faces but the gaffer has that decision.

“It will be tough. It was a one-off game here today but the players and fans were buzzing. In the Premiership next season, we can recall games like this and you never know.

“Hopefully we can enjoy it as much as possible – but we will take care of it when it comes.”

Accies goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert proved to be the shoot-out hero thanks to saves from both Kevin Thomson and Jason Cummings.

And the veteran No.1 was adamant the right team came out on top.

He said: “I think over the season we deserved it. We came up short in the league but in the four play-off games we dominated. No team has played us off the park this season.

“We were shocked to be 2-0 down. And even though we believed we would win, I don’t think anyone else did.

“We were confident in our own ability to get a goal and the boys showed unbelievable character. We’ve scored 90th minute goals all season and Tony Andreu popped up again to earn us a go at extra-time. Even in extra-time we were on top and should have won the game then.

“Everyone has played their part. But to play a significant part in the outcome as a goalkeeper means the world to me.

“I actually think that as much as it means the world to me, it means much more to the kids. They have potentially 15 years ahead of them in Scotland’s top flight.

“Sometimes you never get promoted. I’ve been 12 years down here and it never came my way.

“But these lads have now achieved it and I’m so happy that these boys can take the next step. I’m over the moon for myself and these boys. All the years of effort and knockbacks are now worth it. I was released by Morton three years ago but always said that I wasn’t going to let that defeat me.

“I have always had faith in my own ability and that’s never wavered.

“But this is an amazing feeling and worth all the hardships I’ve had to handle in my career.

“I think the guys here deserve their chance to play in the Premiership. I’m looking for more kids to step up and I think that will happen.

“It’s not Hamilton’s philosophy to bring older guys in. We are a young team who wants to pass the ball and I think that will continue next season.”