JASON Scotland left the country yesterday to chase his World Cup dream.
The Perth striker is now just 180 minutes away from joining the planet’s elite in Germany next summer.
While Saints count down to a derby clash with Dundee, he will be preparing for the first leg in a home and away head to head with Bahrain. It’s winner take all in the struggle for the FIFA invitation to attend the 2006 carnival.
Scotland is hoping to celebrate a fresh chapter in a career threatened by work permit regulations over the summer, by clinching a championship with Saints and gracing the World Cup stage weeks later.
Before embarking on the first leg of a 15,000 mile trek, Scotland said: “It’s amazing to think Trinidad and Tobago are just 180 minutes away from our first ever World Cup finals.
“It is really exciting and I’m told the atmosphere is already building up back home.
“Of course I’m looking forward to the games. It’s a pity I have to miss the derby, but these are the biggest games of my whole career.
“As a kid I never thought I’d have a chance to play in the World Cup finals. Now we’re incredibly close to getting there. There so much riding on these games against Bahrain.”
Scotland, who signed-off with his third goal in as many games at the weekend, knows more about nuclear physics than Bahrain’s personnel, but he expects to be briefed fully over the next few days.
“Everyone is talking about these games back in Trinidad. We got the result we needed against Mexico to reach the play-offs and now we want to take the final step to Germany.
“The appearance fee will be doubled for these games but this isn’t about money. This is about playing in the World Cup finals. So many great players never get that chance.”
In-form Scotland is set to add to his 29 caps and if the Socca Warriors do reach Germany, St Johnstone will get an historic namecheck at the finals.
Perth boss Owen Coyle admits his delight for Scotland is tempered by the fact that Saints will be denied his services for the weekend derby at Dens Park.
“I know they will be missing keeper Kelvin Jack because he’s also away with Trinidad. But they have their number one keeper Derek Soutar back in goals. We will miss Jason more than they will miss Kelvin,” he said.
“Jason has scored in each of the last three league games so whoever comes in has to deliver.”
Among those first team men missing from training yesterday were Kevin Rutkiewicz and Kevin James after both took knocks in Saturday’s hard fought win.
Also absent were John Henry and Stephen Milne, the pair having played against Airdrie despite suffering from flu, while Darren Sheridan was ordered to rest the troublesome foot knock he picked up in the loss to Ross County.
As well as Scotland, Saints will definitely be without Simon Mensing for Saturday’s derby as he is set to start a two-game suspension.
The McDiarmid player/boss said he was delighted with the weekend response from his charges following the setback in Dingwall.
“We were in fine form prior to the County game and it was important we got a reaction from the players,” said Coyle.
“Although we can pass the ball better than we did, our attitude was first class. It was good to get our momentum going again and that’s the first time Saints have beaten Airdrie United.”