ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 18, 2017) — To see Martin Paterson score is to see raw emotion let loose for all to view.
The whoosh of the ball hitting the back of the net is followed by a guttural roar, a hop over the advertising boards, some air punches and a menacing 1,000-yard stare, daring anyone to step forward and challenge the Tampa Bay Rowdies forward.
Make no mistake though, the emotion is joy, not anger.
“Even from a young age, I’ve always been like that when I score goals,” Paterson said. “I don’t have a great cap for my emotion. I can’t really stop it. Some people think it’s an anger thing, but it isn’t. It’s an enjoyment thing, that’s just how I express my enjoyment.”
Luckily for Rowdies fans’, those emotional outbursts are becoming more and more frequent. Paterson has scored the opening goal in each of Tampa Bay’s last two matches, victimizing a purple corner flag last week in celebration of a goal against Orlando City B.
Paterson missed the first three matches of the season while waiting for an international roster spot to become available. During that time, Paterson worked hard and kept his head down.
In his debut, he scored a goal off the bench against Louisville City FC.
“It was frustrating,” he said. “I did the whole preseason and, through no fault of anyone, I just had to wait for the green cards to come through and I missed the first three games of the season, which is not ideal. I just kept my head down and worked my way into the team. It was a frustrating wait, but I feel that I’m making up for it now.”
Paterson is third-best on the Rowdies with four USL goals, despite starting less than half his appearances and playing only 576 minutes, the 13th-highest total on the team. He also scored one goal in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“It took me a while to get into the team,” Paterson said. “We’ve got some good players. For me, I feel I’m getting close to where I want to be, but there’s a lot more left in the locker. The more and more I play, the more I’ll contribute goals and good performances.”
Since the departure of Deshorn Brown late last month, Paterson is one of only two forwards on the Rowdies’ roster along with Georgi Hristov, who has primarily been playing from a wide area. That fact has heightened the pressure on both players to produce.
“With just us as forwards, the pressure to score is high,” Paterson said. “But that pressure is something I quite like.”
For Paterson, the hunger and motivation comes from those who have written him off in his career. As a 21-year old in 2008, Paterson was scoring goals for Burnley in the Premier League and featuring for the Northern Ireland national team.
Since then, injuries have taken their toll.
The Rowdies are Paterson’s seventh team since signing with Huddersfield Town in 2013. While with Huddersfield, he was sent on loan three different times. He came to America to play for Orlando City and was released after only a few appearances. He went back to the United Kingdom and is now back in Florida and finding his groove in Tampa Bay.
“In football, once you get to a certain age, people tend to start writing you off and I think that’s rubbish,” he said. “If you’re willing to work hard and keep fighting, form will come back and your body can stay strong if you work at it. I’m maybe a quarter of the way to proving people wrong about me and I’ll continue to do it.”
Paterson’s next chance could come Saturday night when the Rowdies open a three-game homestand against the Eastern Conference-leading Charleston Battery. Tampa Bay will then remain home to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Harrisburg City Islanders on July 29 and August 5, respectively.