You’d struggle to find a Scotland football fan that is entirely enthused about the idea…
On Twitter, he used to be known as Dr Funk, or rather @DrFunk. Callum Paterson eventually, when it became a little ridiculous for a Scotland international to have the Twitter name of a Nile Rodgers enthusiast, changed his username, but it said a lot about the right back’s character. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but plenty are now taking him seriously in the English Championship.
Now at Cardiff City having left Hearts in the summer, Paterson is catching the eye, scoring twice in the 4-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday. That brought his tally to four goals and two assists from just eight starting appearances. He was always known for his goalscoring touch in Scotland and the full back has carried that down south.
In fact, Paterson is one of Cardiff’s most productive attacking threats. Even in the age of modern football, where full backs are used for their attacking rather than defensive qualities, Paterson is an exception. He averages 1.2 shots on goal per game, making him the Bluebirds’ seventh highest shot taker this season. And yet, he only averages 1.4 tackles per game. Even Junior Hoilett, an out-and-out attacker, averages more tackles per game than that.
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) January 13, 2018
This season, he’s played as a right full back, a right midfielder, a right defensive midfielder and a central midfielder. Against Sunderland, Paterson played more passes than any other outfield player besides Joe Ralls, illustrating how he can even be used as a hub for possession. Although his pass accuracy rate of 44.8% suggests he may have taken more risks than were really necessary.
Paterson has always been an unorthodox sort of full back, in that he sometimes isn’t really a full back at all. For instance, he scored his first goal against Sunderland at the weekend from a late run into the box from a corner kick. He scored his second from a position 15 yards out down the left channel. Let’s not forget he often played as a striker during his time at Hearts.
He’s so tactically unconventional that Neil Warnock decided to play Paterson as a central midfielder on Saturday. The Cardiff boss recognised that the 23-year-old had the attacking instinct to drive into the box from a central position, which is how Paterson scored his second goal of the game. He also played in midfield in a game against Barnsley a week previously.
“I’ve enjoyed it in there and I’ve played it before,” he said after his midfield display against Sunderland. “Obviously I’m not the best in that position but I enjoy getting forward a lot more and getting in the box. Everyone knows I’ve got attacking traits, I’m alright in the air and I like to get forward when possible.”
As Paterson says, this isn’t his favoured position, and probably not his best position either. As Scots, we better hope that Warnock doesn’t play the 23-year-old in central often too frequently. Right back has long been for a problem area for Scotland at international level. For years, it was a position held by Alan Hutton purely because there were no other options. Gordon Strachan attempted to shoehorn Ikechi Anya into the right back role, with mixed success. Kieran Tierney, a natural left back by trade, has also been played there. But Paterson might just be the long term solution.
He already has a handful of caps to his name, forcing his way into the Scotland team before suffering the serious knee injury that threatened to completely derail his career. Now, as a first team figure at English Championship level Paterson it’s possible that he could earn another call up soon, but it’s worth noting that despite his good form of late, he isn’t even Cardiff’s first choice right back at present. That’s a position held by Lee Peltier.
But versatility is what makes Paterson such a compelling case. Everything about him, from his tactical pigeonholing to his Twitter name, is unorthodox. But this is something that gives managers, like Warnock, so much to work with. That’s what makes him so pliable and so useful. If only for his entertainment value, Paterson is a player worth keeping an eye on.