The man once labelled Mr Mystery is certainly making a name for himself this season. Rory Patterson was given that moniker by fans of FC United of Manchester because he made his pre-season debut for them without a number on the back of his shirt. However, Patterson soon became renowned at the club founded by disaffected supporters of Manchester United FC, scoring 107 goals in 126 appearances.
The 25-year-old was also called up to the Northern Ireland senior squad for this week's friendly in Albania having caught the eye of national-team boss Nigel Worthington by scoring 33 goals so far this season for Coleraine FC, whom he joined last summer. That tally includes 26 league goals in 25 appearances.
Patterson admitted he was delighted, if slightly daunted, by his surprise call-up: "It's a big step up from the Irish League. I wasn't thinking about the international scene but it'll be great to be involved. It doesn't matter where it is in the world, you always want to play for your country."
Involvement with Northern Ireland seemed only a dream several seasons ago. His underage international experience amounted to a couple of appearances with the Under-19s, and he was also on standby for the U21s while still a teenager, but after failing to make the grade with Rochdale FC in England's fourth tier he dropped down to non-league level.
His time at FC United turned his career around, although he is modest about his cult hero status there. "Strikers always get the headlines if they're scoring goals and I scored some good goals there," he said. "They just took to me; they liked my style of play. I have good memories of my time there."
Similarly, he pays tribute to his Coleraine colleagues for his flying form this season, saying: "It's testament to the team. We're a very young side, with some lads in the Northern Ireland set-up at different age groups. We're a very attacking team, which as a striker is what you need, you need the service."
Coleraine fans already know they will have to make the most of Patterson this term as he has agreed to join reigning champions Glentoran FC in the summer. However, there is no doubt he is still committed to the Bannsiders, as he showed by scoring a hat-trick against the Glens in a 4-3 victory just a day or so after news broke of his pre-contract agreement to move to Oval.
Patterson also aims to shoot down Glentoran when they meet Coleraine in the forthcoming League Cup final, having scored four times when the Bannsiders inflicted a 6-0 home humiliation on the champions last November. Despite his goal-per-game scoring rate, Patterson says of his switch to the Glens: "It's a big challenge for me, going to one of the big teams in Belfast and trying to prove myself there." Truth is, he has nothing to prove on the domestic scene – the international stage awaits the former Mr Mystery.
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