As a player who seems to have been constantly on the move, having clocked up stints at 12 clubs over his 10-year professional career, Tony Watt might have been expected to struggle with lockdown.
Yet, in both the professional and personal sense, the 26-year-old seems to have relished taking root during the pause placed on life by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The striker’s desire to settle in the Lanarkshire homeland from which he has strayed far and wide during a peripatetic existence meant he had no difficulty agreeing a new one-year contract with Motherwell this week.
Watt pitched up at the Fir Park club in February following his return from a nine-month spell with Bulgarian club CSKA Sofia.
Like everyone else of late, though, Watt hasn’t crossed his front door much. Or even his living room door, it turns out. That is down to the fact his gusto for being a gamer – and streaming his jousting with team-mate Declan Gallagher and new-found virtual buddy and Hearts striker Liam Boyce – has gone off the scale.
Watt said: “I’ve become unbelievable at the PlayStation [and] Big Dec and I are sharing most of our lives away.
“It’s got to a stage where my wife is a bit angry that I’m not spending time with her. So I’m just going off and annoying her so that she lets me play the PlayStation.
“I’ve known Boycie through external sources, through other boys. He has been on a similar path to me, he came from Cliftonville [in Belfast], I came from Airdrie. We always had the respect. We have played PlayStation together through this lockdown and we have become close friends, me, him and Dec. It’s got to the stage where we are shouting and going mental at each other. Dec and Boycie are having it out, me and Boycie are having it out. It’s quite refreshing because we are slaughtering each other and people get to see it. I think big Dec actually muted me last night. He was raging at me.”
Perhaps that has to do with the fact that the defender features in a lowly position in Watt’s ranking table of the gaming trio. “It probably goes Boycie one, me two and Dec probably about 10th,” said Watt, who maintains that his love for football – sometimes strained in the past – has been bolstered by the absence of it for the past three months.
That contention touches on the fact that familiar sentiments are expressed by the forward whenever he inks a new deal, or fronts up at a new club. Watt declares that his wanderlust days are over and that he has found a club to allow him to stand still, and yet move forward.
He doesn’t change the habits of a lifetime when articulating the pull of Motherwell. He sees manager Stephen Robinson as someone who “just wants to help others and coach” players for their betterment, which is “refreshing”. In “keeping to their word” pre-lockdown to award Watt a contract, the broader appeal of the Fir Park side is that “from top to bottom it’s a good club”.
So much so that “money and everything else” beyond playing didn’t come into his decision to commit.
No doubt because it is the perennial subject where he is concerned, but Watt is sensitive to the question of whether he is no longer a restless spirit.
A question inevitably raised by the fact that he has never hung around long at any club since he left Celtic in 2014. A loan spell when in Glasgow with Belgian Side Lierse gave way to two years with Standard Liege, then two years with Charlton, including loan spells at Cardiff City, Blackburn Rovers and Hearts.
Watt then spent the 2017-18 season back in Belgium with OH Leuven, and the following one with St Johnstone, before a lucrative contract offer from CSKA led him to depart from Perth.
“If you want to go and do your research… three of those clubs – one was a transfer embargo, one was an injury, with the team that sent me on two of them trying to get the money back they paid on me because they were in trouble financially,” declared Watt, who initially elected not to name that team as Charlton.
“Charlton then sent me on loan to Hearts. That is four in the space of six months. That is nothing to do with being restless. That isn’t me being cheeky. They wanted to make the money. I never came out and said that. Why come out and slaughter a club? I could have come out and spoken, but what do you get for arguing and going to papers about a club?
“Charlton spoke to me in the November and said I was doing well and they wanted to make money on me. I went to Cardiff, but they got a transfer embargo. I went to Blackburn but ripped the groin off the bone and was out until I went to Hearts. The loans add a few clubs on but it doesn’t bother me. They improve you as a player. When I went to Hearts it was the first time I had experienced an injury and it was about how you deal with it.
“For me St Johnstone, CSKA Sofia and Motherwell, I’ve enjoyed all three clubs. Now I am here I want to focus on Motherwell, and hopefully I’m here for a long time, feeling stable and settled.”
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