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FEW First Division footballers will have Jason Scotland's headline-making potential this year. The St Johnstone striker's very name has, naturally, always been one to conjure with. But that the Trinidad and Tobago internationalist can look forward to his country taking on England in the World Cup finals has created endless, delicious, possibilities for newspaper wordplay.


Already we have been treated to "the Scotland who will be in Germany" and all manner of variations on that theme. Meanwhile, you can rest assured the "Scotland versus England" line will be trotted out more times than is decent before the Caribbean side face Sven-Goran Eriksson's men in Nuremberg's Frankenstadion on June 15.

"I remember when Dundee United first came in and offered me a trial," recalls Scotland, forced to move to St Johnstone in the summer after being denied work permit to extend his two-year stay on Tannadice. "I had no idea where Scotland was or anything about the place, but my agent said being Jason Scotland in Scotland could make me a legend in the country."

Among sub-editors, the 26-year-old is all of that. Anything approaching legendary status as a footballer, however, is restricted to his homeland. Scotland was largely a fringe member of the Trinidad and Tobago squad that achieved the seemingly-unachievable with a 2-1 aggregate win over Bahrain in November. But having made a sprinkling of appearances throughout the qualifying campaign, and come off the bench in the Trinidadian first leg of the Asian-CONCACAF play-off, Scotland is one of Leo Beenhakker's history-makers.

A group of men, indeed, whose astonishing efforts will see Trinidad and Tobago, with little more than one million inhabitants, become the least populated nation ever to appear in a World Cup finals, and only the fourth from the Caribbean to do so. Yet, on the final whistle sounding on a triumph in Bahrain that still seems more fable than fact, Scotland's first thoughts were for others.

"I didn't cry and didn't really know what to do with myself the moment we knew we had made it," he says. "What made it for me was looking across and seeing Russell [Latapy] and Dwight [Yorke] in tears. My happiness became for them because I remembered being at primary school and watching on the television as they wept after we lost out to the USA in a decider in 1989. It was amazing to think that 16 years later, they had finally done it.

"What we have achieved still hasn't really sunk in. But when you talk to people back home about the excitement over it, it begins to seem so much more real. It was the dream of all of our lives to play on the world stage and now it has come true."

It is a dream that Scotland reveals he and his fellow Trinidadian football imports dared to discuss in their regular get-togethers over the months of 2005. He says he has a special bond with Falkirk's Latapy, Rangers' Marvin Andrews, Dundee's Kelvin Jack and former Dundee United team-mate Colin Samuel. "We try to make a home away from home, be close, be a unit here, so we are like a unit when we go back to the national team," he states.

Yet, Scotland is more naturalised in his temporary abode than such as his main mucker, Jack. The keeper was fined for returning late to Dens Park after too long soaking up the celebrations that greeted the squad on flying back from Bahrain. Even if it seemed so, not every Trinidad and Tobagan was at that party.

"I phoned my gaffer and he said he needed me back so I missed out," Scotland says. "Some of the guys told me that the scene at the airport was overwhelming. After arriving tired and sleepy, the numbers of people crammed in to the airports made them come alive and many of them said it was the best experience of their lives."

Airports will figure prominently in Scotland's memories of 2005. The player's low point of the past 12 months probably came when he had to spend ten hours wrangling with custom officials at Heathrow in the summer.

Returning to the country was then difficult because Scotland did not possess a valid international work permit. United's attempt to renew his previous one had been rejected because of the club's tendency to use him as a substitute. The tactic led the Home Office panel of former players to conclude he was not sufficiently central to the Tannadice side, while he had failed to meet the criterion of playing in 75% of his national team's fixtures.

"United used me in the way they saw fit and I used to come off the bench and do wonders for them," he says. "I wasn't always so good when I started games, so it made sense for them to bring me on but the panel couldn't understand that."

Now the striker admits he sometimes finds himself struggling to understand how he has ended up pursuing his career in the second tier of the Scottish game. Having become accustomed to the way of life in this country, he was desperately keen not to have to find himself adapting to another new alien culture. Yet, in some ways, First Division football has proved to be that.

"You go to certain grounds, look around and end up asking yourself: 'What am I doing here? You shouldn't be playing here'," Scotland says. "But sometimes you have to take a step back to take a bigger step forward. I just have to go through this, fight it out and play to the best of my ability, and try and go to a bigger club afterwards.

"I do miss United. I felt good, I felt comfortable there, and the fans were unbelievable. It was my first club after leaving Trinidad and it was the highest level.

"In two years, my team-mates got to know my game, what runs I would make and when they should play the ball round the corner. These things I'm still working on with my new team-mates at St Johnstone, but they take more than half a season."

The Perth club can expect everything from the player in the second half of the season, however. In the summer, after all, he will represent Scotland in the World Cup.