Morton striker Jai Quitongo admits he is pinching himself over his Scotland Under-21s call-up after being plucked from the footballing wilderness just over a year ago.
The 19-year-old has been included in Scot Gemmill’s squad for tomorrow’s friendly clash in Slovakia and is desperate to make an impression.
Quitongo’s path to international recognition is all the more impressive given that the forward was considering quitting the game in summer 2015 after leaving Aberdeen.
But the teenager has made the most of the lifeline offered by Jim Duffy at Cappielow.
And after a bid from Doncaster was turned down in August, goals against Kilmarnock, Hamilton and Dundee United en route to the Betfred Cup semi-finals have reportedly triggered interest from English top-flight clubs Crystal Palace, Hull City and Swansea.
Quitongo admits he is struggling to believe the upturn in his fortunes.
He said: “I am delighted to get called up and I can’t wait to get started.
“I just need to go there, train well and see where that takes me but you need to leave an impression when you’re going away because it’s a big stage being called up for the 21s and it’s my first time involved. “It’s good, I need to go there and show what I can do.
“It’s surreal because just over a year ago I didn’t think I would ever be in this position.
“I didn’t even have a team and I was thinking, ‘am I going to quit, what am I going to do?’
“It was just over a year ago I was considering quitting but everything has changed, I’m scoring and have been called up by the 21s – it’s stuff you dream of.
“I was just wanting game time, the gaffer has put that smile back on my face and I’m enjoying my football.
“I wouldn’t be called up if it wasn’t for my team-mates and the gaffer.
“The gaffer told me when I came in that if I worked hard that anything is possible.
“I’ve just been working hard but it’s all down to the gaffer for giving me a chance. I can only repay him with good performances.
“I’m delighted with how everything is going but I just need to keep working hard and see where that can take me.”
Quitongo’s call-up comes after his dad Jose warned that Portugal were keen to cap the Wishaw-born player at Under-21 level.
Former Hearts winger Quitongo senior has dual citizenship having moved to Lisbon from Angola as a kid but but the six-goal marksman forward is thrilled Scotland came calling.
He added: “I’ve been getting stick from the boys about what my dad said. I’ll soon be eligible to play for Portugal as well and they’ve been wanting to get me over.
“I’ll need to wait and see what happens, I’m over the moon to be called up for Scotland.
“I’ve grown up in Scotland and I’m delighted to be going away with them.
“Hopefully we can train well and get a good result against Slovakia.”