WHAT do a player of the month award, dreams of Championship football and jokes about getting 40 goals in a season have in common?
The answer; they all occupy the mind of Swansea City’s in-form striker Jason Scotland.
With 13 goals to his name already, the Trinidad and Tobago international has made a flying start to life in South Wales. And, as he prepares for today’s trip to Luton, the Swans No 9 has plenty to smile about.
After a relatively barron spell of five games without a goal, Scotland scored five in four starts in December. That was enough to win him League One’s player of the month award, an unexpected reward for his continued hard work in training.
“Obviously I’m very happy to be player of the month,” he said. “It’s good to get a nice, prestigious award and some recognition.
“It’s nice that people are noticing me. I got recognition before when I was in Scotland (for Dundee United and St Johnstone) and I’m just happy to carry that on down here.
“Football is quite different in the English leagues. But I just had to keep my head down and show the confidence and talent is there.
“That helped me raise my standards and show that I could keep performing at a higher level.”
He continued, “All strikers go through periods when they aren’t scoring but you just have to keep plugging away. If you are a good striker, the goals will come.
“Sometimes you can have spells of five or 10 games without scoring. But if you keep working hard, you can turn it around.”
One of Scotland’s five goals was the vital winner in the Swans epic victory over Leeds during the festive period. And he is well aware of how important his strike was that day as Roberto Martinez’s men clinched a vital three points.
It was his first goal in front of a packed Liberty Stadium and, should the Swans get promoted, it’s a feeling the 28-year-old is keen to recreate as often as possible.
“It was a big goal for the club and I was delighted,” he beamed. “We got three points on the day and it was a great atmosphere.
“It was a big win for us. They beat us up in Leeds so it was really good to take three points at the Liberty.
“Leeds is a big club, they brought a lot of support and it was a really good atmosphere. We were really up for it, we put in a top performance and we got the points.”
He continued, “If we can go up, packed crowds like that would be a sight for sore eyes. It would be amazing to have a packed stadium week in, week out, against Championship teams.
“We want to be playing against the bigger clubs. We are aspiring to get there and hopefully we will.”
When he first arrived at the Liberty, Scotland was reluctant to set himself a goal target. But, after scoring six times in just nine games, he reluctantly agreed 20 goals would be a fair return for the season.
Now that he has cruised past the 10-goal mark, it seemed the right time to ask if he would care to raise the bar once more. And Scotland, never one to turn down a chance to make a joke or play a prank, came up with the goods again.
“I’m trying to push on for 40 now,” he joked. “Scoring goals is what I’m paid to do. I’m not playing in all the games. But I’m scoring goals and I’m just happy with my form.
“Obviously, if I get past the 20-goal mark, I will be buzzing. But at the moment I will just try to keep scoring goals and doing well for the club.”
Let’s be fair, 40 goals isn’t realistic. But, considering the Swans will only be reaching the halfway point of their league campaign today, there’s no reason Scotland should be limiting his expectations at the 20-goal mark.
After all, he has 13 already and that’s in spite of two separate five-game spells when he was unable to find the net. So, with 23 league games and a minimum of three cup fixtures (one FA Cup, two Johnstone’s Paint) to come, a tally of 25 or, at a push, 30 goals isn’t inconceivable.
But, before heaping too much pressure on Scotland, it should be acknowledged that he has enough of a battle on his hands just to keep his place in the starting XI.
Guillem Bauza has been among the goals and is starting to show signs of being the striker Martinez expected him to be. And, with a bit more confidence under his belt, Darryl Duffy is gradually looking like the sort of player the Spaniard was willing to shell out £250,000 on in the summer.
Add to that the fact Martinez has admitted he needs to fill the attacking void left by Warren Feeney’s ankle injury, and you would expect Scotland to be feeling the pressure. But he insists that simply isn’t the case.
He added, “I’m not feeling any extra pressure. I’m confident in my own game and that’s why the manager brought me here.
“I don’t think about any of the others. It’s a big squad and there’s no way I will be playing in all the games. There’s no chance any of the strikers would play every game. There’s too many of them and everyone will get their fair share.
“It’s just important that, when you are called upon, you do your job. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Scotland is set to continue his goal hunt in today’s clash at Kenilworth Road. And, when you consider the home side’s current financial crisis, it’s a game many people expect the Swans to win comfortably.
It’s not an opinion Martinez shares though. Luton may have let five first-team players leave on Thursday and had their manager, Kevin Blackwell, resign yesterday (even if he doesn’t leave until February 9), but the Spaniard still believes they are a force to be reckoned with.
The Swans boss thinks the hosts will be brought closer together by their current plight. And, unless his team are on top of their game, he warned they could get a nasty surprise from the Hatters.
“Luton may have a few problems,” he said. “But that will make them more determined on the field. These financial struggles can galvanise teams, at least in the short term. It pulls people together and gets them doing their upmost to win games.
“In the long term you will suffer on the pitch as well. But it hasn’t got to this stage yet.”
He added, “It’s going to be a fantastic game at Luton. They have been in tremendous form at home and it will be a tough challenge for us. They initially struggled away from home. But that has changed lately too.
“They are in a good run of form and we have to be ready for a difficult game. We know what they are capable of with the players they’ve got. If you look at the experience in their ranks, it’s fantastic.
“On their day they can beat anyone. If you look at the quality of their players, they are too good to be in League One.”