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#9 Jason ScotlandJason Scotland spent Monday evening in a bundle of his nerves in front of his television in south-west Wales.
The stocky five-foot-eight Trinidad and Tobago international, who sports shoulder-length dreadlocks, must have looked half his size as he shadowed every Sheffield United attack and willed the ball into the back of the Burnley net.

Scotland's nervous evening was probably replicated by his Swansea teammates and throughout the Welsh city. Swansea City are four points shy of a Play Off berth that could lead them to become the first team outside England's borders to compete in the English Premier League.

The problem is Swansea have little time to claw back that four-point deficit. A Sheffield United triumph, on Monday, would have narrowed the gap to one point between sixth-placed Burnley and seventh-placed Swansea. Instead, Burnley won 1-0 and there are just two games left in the regular season.

"It is really tense (at the club) these days," Scotland told the Express. "We have to depend on other teams' results as well as doing our own business. If we win the other two games we have a chance."

It would take a minor miracle for Swansea to rub shoulders with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea next season, though.

Ironically, Swansea travel to Sheffield United today and the South Yorkshire club are desperate for a victory that will keep their slim automatic qualification dream alive. Burnley, on the other hand, play away to Southampton, who are already certain of relegation. A Burnley victory would assure Swansea of another season in the Championship division.

Funny enough, the majority of the Swansea fan base would have gladly settled for a mid-table Championship finish last summer as the unheralded outfit won promotion to the second tier of the English game by virtue of winning the 2007/08 England League One title.

And Scotland? He should be happy to have a professional career in Britain at all.

It is not the first time that Burnley manager Owen Coyle will have a profound impact on the career of the former Malick schoolboy.

Four years ago, Scotland was on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty in Miami when news broke that the British Home Office had rejected his work permit application to continue his trade with Scotland Premier League outfit, Dundee United. Scotland, whose superb FA Cup semi-final double against Hibernian booked United a place in the following season's UEFA Cup, was controversially deemed to be "not of sufficient calibre" to continue in the SPL.

Protests from Dundee United manager Ian McCall and a petition from their fans failed to change the mind of the work permit committee that, in an ironic twist, had two ex-Hibernian employees on board.

"I felt physically sick and upset," said Scotland, as he recalled his darkest days as a professional. "I can't even describe how depressed. I was devastated and it took hours to soak in. I even called back (my agent) Mike (Berry) to find out if he was joking."

Trinidad and Tobago coach Leo Beenhakker, a shrewd man-manager, played Scotland from the start for the first time in their Gold Cup opener against Honduras and he kept his place-ahead of Kenwyne Jones and Cornell Glen-for the remaining games against Panama and Colombia. But he was excluded to sort out his career, a month later, when the "Soca Warriors" returned to the United States for a World Cup qualifier in Connecticut.

It was during that period that Coyle, who was then manager of Scotland First Division club St Johnstone, rang and advised the striker to stay in north Britain and force his way back into the top flight. "Scotty" did not need much convincing.

As popular as Scotland was at Dundee, his playing time there was limited and he managed five goals in each of his two seasons with the club.

Coyle and St Johnstone gave Scotland the opportunity to take the leading role and the transformation was remarkable.

Scotland, aided by his clever footwork and booming shots off either foot, was already a scorer of great goals. Coyle, a former Republic of Ireland international striker, helped him become a great goal-scorer as he taught him the art of charging the opposing box and snatching scrappy items too.

But, arguably, it was the heightened responsibility and the confidence of his boss that brought the best from the former soldier.

Scotland scored 16 goals in his first season and 26 in his second year as St Johnstone flirted unsuccessfully with promotion. No one was questioning his ability anymore. He was second in the scoring charts while the Scottish club managers voted him on the division's All Star team.

Swansea beckoned and Scotland headed south for a more competitive arena. He took his hot streak with him.

Twenty-nine goals in his debut season silenced critics, including some Swansea fans who mourned the loss of popular striker Lee Trundle, and helped Scotland capture his first scoring title and another All Star place. Remarkably, Scotland conquered League One with limited use of his stronger foot due to a groin injury.

"Anytime I kicked or passed the ball with my right foot, I would feel shooting pain for about a minute," he said. "So I trained and played more with my left foot. I was always good with both feet but I think my left foot is as good as my right now.

"Defenders knew I was right footed so they marked me to my right and gave me a little more space on my left foot. So I made them pay for that."

There were whispers that Scotland could not replicate such form in the Championship and he started slowly as a hernia operation denied him a chance to join his teammates for pre-season training. It was not until October 4, 2008-13 games into the new season-that Scotland scored his first home goal.

But Swansea's Spanish manager, Roberto Martinez, whose Latin flair has made the club a favourite among neutrals, kept faith in Scotland and he was not disappointed.

Scotland scored again in November before a spree of four goals from six matches in December reignited his lust. At present, his tally is 21 league goals-the joint second best total in the division-while he grabbed three items from as many meetings with Premiership opposition in the FA Cup.

If there was any doubt that Scotland is a man for the big games-a trait he first showcased in the Scottish leagues-they surely disappeared with a cheeky penalty against David James as Swansea eliminated defending FA Cup champs, Portsmouth, on their home ground before he bagged two clinical strikes in successive games against Fulham.

No wonder Middlesbrough are interested and surely they are not the only Premiership club monitoring Scotland, despite the fact that he turned 30 in February.

He is anxious for more searching tests of his ability than the Championship can provide.

"(Norway captain and Fulham defender Brede) Hangeland is one of the most clever defenders I ever faced," said Scotland. "He was really clever at covering and he used the ball properly when he had it. (Portsmouth vice-captain and Frenchman Sylvain) Distin was really good too.

"There were times in the games when I went past him and his recovery challenge was strong and quick. That was something I took notice of."

People are taking notice of Scotland too, particularly, to his delight, back in his homeland.

His present league tally is the highest ever by a Trinidad and Tobago player in the Championship and eclipsed the 20-goal mark set by Stern John in the 2001/02 season.

Rumour has it that Scotland, John and Sunderland striker Jones wagered £1,000 on who would bag the most goals this season. Scotland refused to confirm or deny this gossip but his laugh sounded suspiciously like someone expecting a pay day soon.

Jones has ten goals with the season's close approaching fast-albeit in the top flight-while John, who has not played for the Bristol City first team since the middle of March, is further behind with three Championship goals and has not scored this year.

For once, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) appeared pro-active by toasting Scotland with the 2008 Player of the Year award-although their coaching staff of Francisco Maturana and Anton Corneal rarely used him that year and even preferred a schoolboy to the striker when England visited for a famous friendly.

"It is something I will always cherish," said Scotland, of the TTFF award. "That is my top award so far."

But he would like more caps to go with the gong. In nine years of international football, Scotland has started in three successive matches on only four occasions. Despite six goals from those 12 matches, he never made it to a fourth straight start. His overall international tally reads eight goals from 20 starts and 15 substitute appearances.

"I know I need to score more goals with the chances I get, even if I just play for 15 or 20 minutes," said Scotland, "but, at the same time, I don't think I am getting enough chances to play for the national team. I am 30 now so if I am not getting the chance now when will I get it?"

He is desperate to help the Warriors to the 2010 World Cup and is anxious to get new player/coach Russell Latapy off to a good start.

"Latapy was a top player and still is, so obviously he can bring that knowledge to the players," said Scotland. "He has been out here and around for some time so the experience he has will do us well. Everybody is looking forward to our next game and hopefully we can get three points and kick forward from there."

Today, Scotland's Premiership dreams take pole position, though. For the third successive season, he was again selected to his division's All Star team, while he was recently voted by his fellow-professionals as the sixth best player in the Championship.

Scotland is desperate to discover if he can continue his prolific ways in the top flight. If he succeeds, he will be the seventh Trinidad and Tobago player to compete in the English Premiership after Dwight Yorke, Shaka Hislop, Clint Marcelle, Stern John, Kenwyne Jones, Carlos Edwards and Anthony Warner.

"I really want to be in the Premiership," said Scotland. "To be playing in Old Trafford and the Emirates and Stamford Bridge I want to test myself against the best."

Swansea's Play Off chances are slim. But it is folly to bet against Scotland defying the odds again.