Following the announcement of contract extensions for seven Ross County players in March, it has been revealed that Connor Randall and Ben Paton have become the latest of Malky Mackay’s men to sign new contracts with the club.
Randall, who has been with the Staggies for nearly two years, has agreed a deal that will see him stay at the club until at least 2024, while Paton has extended his deal by one year until 2023, as it was due to expire at the end of this season.
It is once again good to see players tied down for next season and beyond, as there will be a core of players in the dressing room that will help new faces settle in, as opposed to immediately being plunged into the chaos that came with all our signings at the start of this season.
At 26, Randall is entering his prime, and this is fantastic news for County.
As a right back by trade, he has also been deployed at left back fairly often throughout his time at the club. It’s a testament to how trusted he is that he has kept his current place at left back with a fully fit Jake Vokins breathing down his neck for a starting place. Kayne Ramsay had the right side of defence on lockdown until his recent suspension, but Randall slotted back into that position seamlessly against Hearts.
Recruited by Stuart Kettlewell at the beginning of last season, the Liverpool academy product had a respectable year that was slightly marred by injury. Nevertheless, he managed 17 appearances. The arrival of Jason Naismith in January limited him further, but it was around this point that his affinity for the left back position was found, so he stayed in and around the first team squad when the likes of Carl Tremarco and Leo Hjelde were out of form or unavailable.
This season, Randall has reached a new level of consistency. He hasn’t reached the level of Harry Clarke when he was tearing the league up at right back- in fact he only has three assists in all his time at the Staggies. However, he is arguably our most defensively stable full back, and is offensively valuable when he puts his ball winning abilities to use when County are pressing high up the pitch.
Having been lauded by Mackay for the manner in which he conducts himself, it’s clear how much of an asset Randall is to this County side,
Signed after a lengthy trial period, Ben Paton has become one of the Staggies’ most exciting prospects. In the County ranks alongside his brother Harry, his signing proves that Malky Mackay has an eye on the future, but also has the squad management skills to integrate new blood into the team.
Due to Jake Vokins sustaining a long-term injury on the eve of the Scottish Premiership season opener, it was trial by fire for Paton, a natural central midfielder, in the form of a debut at left back against reigning champions Rangers in Dingwall. Ross County fell to a 4-2 defeat that day, but the 21-year-old Canadian was one of the standout performers, marshalling his area of the pitch well and being heavily involved in Harry Clarke’s goal.
Since that match, Paton has made a further 8 appearances, but has been limited due to the return of Vokins to full fitness. He has faced tough competition in central midfield from the likes of Jordan Tillson, Ross Callachan, David Cancola, Blair Spittal, and of course Harry Paton. This could lead to some suggestions of a loan away next season, but I would hope to see him in and around the first team fighting for his place, as in his appearances so far he has shown maturity and culture beyond his years.
Seeing more of Ben Paton is a want of most County fans, and hopefully when the time comes for him to get a consistent run in the team he will clinch a contract beyond this extension to 2023.