Interview with Nicki Paterson, NASL player

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Nicki playing for Owatta Fury

We chat with Nicki Paterson, a player in the NASL. Who is Nicki Paterson? Nicki Paterson is a Scottish professional footballer playing in NASL (North American Soccer League) for Indy Eleven. Nicki plays as a midfielder, and since joining his club, he has played 13 games and scored one goal. His previous clubs include: Motherwell, Hamiliton, Harrisburg, Clyde, and Owatta Fury. We chat about the lack of a promotion and relegation system in the US, college football, his ambitions to play in the MLS or abroad and more.

What are you ambitions for this season?

As always to win another Championship. Lost in the NASL Championship Final last year so want to go one better this season.

You’re Scottish but you play in the US league, NASL, how did that happen?

Long story but the short version. After 3 years pro at home in Scotland went over to USA in 2005 to do a “soccer scholarship” at UNLV in Las Vegas. Graduated from there and I am now in my 8th season as a pro in North America.

Is there a difference in the quality and style of play compared to your time at Motherwell and Hamilton compared to the club’s in America?

The biggest difference for me has always been the mental aspects of the game. At home we live and breathe football, it’s all you watch on TV. It’s our culture. For me the top players at home are all thinking a move or two ahead, read the game better and tactically can solve things more easily. The gap is definitely closing every year. As far as quality and style it is very similar. Some teams want to play attractive football others more direct. Physically it’s very similar also.

You’re used to a pro/rel system in Scotland, was it strange not having that when coming over to America?

A little bit yes. I prefer the pro/rel system. In America you finish bottom of MLS one year and there’s no penalty. You write it off. Then the next year you’re up there challenging for the title again. It’s a bit strange but to them it’s all about parity and the playoffs.

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Nicki trying to get the ball in training.

Do you feel that the American game could use a football promotion relegation pyramid (MLS, USL, NASL) instead of clubs being selected to join the MLS?

I feel there definitely needs to be more structure within the American set-up. Right now you have different soccer businesses doing what’s best for their own company. MLS being at the top somewhat cherry picks the best clubs/cities for expansion. This doesn’t help the other leagues. It’s a massive country and there are so many markets that can carry a professional team. I think they are a long way away from pro/rel but a solid structure with all the leagues onboard would be a good start and then build on it from there.

Favourite football team (England)?

Celtic fan. Can watch any teams in the Prem and enjoy it.

Favourite football team (US Soccer)?

Don’t really have a favourite team but I always look out for NY Red Bulls and LA Galaxy scores.

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Nicki (left) playing youth football for Motherwell.

Greatest football player?

Zinedine Zidane for me!

Would you like to play abroad one day, or perhaps join the MLS as a player?

I’ve had 3 years in Scotland. 2 in Canada. 8/9 in USA in USL and NASL. Spent the last few months of 2012/few months in preseason in 2013 with NYRB and was very close to signing there. At the time a few MLS clubs were interested and I’m disappointed nothing could be figured out. I’ll never rule anything out in Football. Happy here at the minute but you never know what’s round the corner.

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Nicki in the New York training kit whilst training there in 2012/2013

How was playing college football good for your career? Would you recommend it to players who perhaps aren’t getting the best game time over here?

To be very honest at the time there was no money in football in Scotland. I wanted to be full time and the opportunities at home were thin. I got the chance to go to Vegas and thought I may stay a year or so and when I got there I loved every minute of it. Played football everyday, Tavel all over the country and got a degree to fall back on if I ever need it. I would 100% recommend it to anyone at home!

Have you got a dual citzenship which will making you eligible to play for both Scotland and the USMNT, do you know who you would declare to? 

I actually don’t have dual citizenship. You would think I would after over 10 years here but I don’t. But my answer would still be the same. I’m Scottish so scotland!

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What are the fans like at Indy Eleven?

Unbelievable fans!! Every week 10,000 people pack the stands in Indy. The supporters section, The ByB(the brickyard Bitallion) is the American version of Borussia Dortmunds Yellow Wall. We are unbeaten at home this entire season so far and they are a massive part as to why!!

How is the recruitment in the states different to over here in England? Is there more chances for young players, due to a number of different way to play such as the MLS, the USL (which now includes MLS reserve sides), NASL and college football? Do you think moving to America for your development as a pro has improved your football?

Being such a big country I would say there are more avenues into the game here than in the U.K. At home you are pro youth and then pro. If you haven’t made it by 16-18 it’s over. In America, almost everyone goes through College. The elite players get Generation Adidas and leave early and go on to massive contracts. Also now with MLS academies you get homegrown opportunities. If you miss out on both of those then you graduate college with a degree then try and go professional and you have many avenues to try amongst the various leagues. The big difference is those kids are trying to break through at 21/22. For me this is too late to be trying to break into a pro team. I feel most kids miss out on reaching their true potential. For me college was merely a stepping stone from professional in Scotland to pro here. Iv been very lucky to have had excellent coaches in my time here who pushed me to get the best out of me. Iv had a good career so far in comparison to many guys I broke through with in Scotland so it has been good for me, iv been very fortunate. Iv played with/against some unbelievable players over the years in the USA; Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Rafa Marquez, Raul, Marcos Senna, Joe Cole, Georgio Samaras…to name a few..I will look back when I retire I’m sure and say America was a massive success!

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We would like to thank Nicki for answering our questions and would like to wish him the best in his career going forward. You can follow Nicki at @nickipaterson8

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