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JASON SCOTLAND was told he wasn't good enough to play in the SPL - now he's just 180 minutes away from starring in the greatest show on earth.

The Trinidad and Tobago striker was thrown on the scrapheap in the summer as his spell at Dundee United was ended by a Home Office in a work permit renewal row.

But he was rescued when St Johnstone made a shock move for him and won his permit fight.

Now, just over three months later, Scotland has begun the countdown to a nerve-jangling home and away World Cup play-off with Bahrain.

Scotland is hoping to join countrymen Russell Latapy of Falkirk, Rangers defender Marvin Andrews and Dundee keeper Kelvin Jack in Germany next year.

But the seasoned travellers now face the longest haul of their lives to reach the promised land.

They'll clock up around 15,000 miles next month making for the first match in Port of Spain before heading on to the Gulf state shoot-out days later. Scotland said: "The country has never reached the finals before. We came close in 1989 when all we needed was a point from the USA.But we lost and that was the end of the dream.

"We have guys in the Premiership but the World Cup is the stage every footballer wants to play on. It's the ultimate challenge.

"We're close now but no one is taking anything for granted. We allowed ourselves a celebration after beating Mexico because that was a big scalp and many fans didn't expect us to get the win we needed. But we are a confident group.

"I don't know anything about Bahrain but we'll watch tapes before playing them.

"It is going to be a tough trip but the main thing is we have given ourselves a chance."

Scotland can't believe the turnaround in his fortunes over the last few months.

He said: "People at home have been saying how crazy it is. Not long ago I was out of a job and out of the national squad.

"But I got the work permit and the move to St Johnstone. Getting to the World Cup finals would top it all off. It's amazing how things have worked out for me."