During unprecedented times, it’s been an unusual season in Scottish football and a rollercoaster ride for Motherwell.
Stephen Robinson departed, Graham Alexander arrived, Fir Park remained empty, there were three Lanarkshire derby defeats and a devastating penalty shoot-out defeat that prevented a trip to Hampden.
In a season full of highs and lows, the performances of Tony Watt have remained consistent - he’s enjoyed an excellent season.
The 27-year-old was voted Motherwell’s Player of the Year as he demonstrated his unquestionable ability and an improved level of maturity to his game.
Lanarkshire Live reporter Euan Robertson sat down, remotely, with the ‘Well star to reflect on an encouraging campaign...
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Tony, how have you viewed this season? It’s obviously ended on a positive note personally as you were voted Motherwell’s Player of the Year…
TW: “It was amazing to get the recognition from the supporters and to receive that is massive for me. We could have been a bit more consistent and reached the top six but it just wasn’t to be.
“Personally, I’ve been really selfless for the team whether that’s playing through the middle or on the left.
“I know that I’ve not scored too many goals but I believe that my performances, and assists, have made up for that.
“I go into every game with a level of consistency, I always work hard and hopefully we can be successful.
“A lot of things went against us this season but we never really managed to gather momentum until it was too late to achieve our goals.
You enjoy a fantastic relationship with the supporters. I’ve heard fans and people at the club discuss that before, what do you believe is the main factor behind this?
TW: “Whether people agree with me or not, I’ve always given one hundred percent on the pitch during a match.
“When I was younger, I probably didn’t appreciate how important training was and I completely accept that.
“You need to earn your place during training but I never realised that when I was younger and I thought that I could just get away with it during a game.
“That’s probably why my consistency levels never reached as high a level as they should have done when I was breaking through.
“I’d have two or three good games but then I’d have two or three bad games. I’ve changed now and everyday in training, I just want to be the best version of myself.
“There will be bad days but as long as you keep them to a minimum then it prepares you for the game.
“But if you work hard everyday in training then you give yourself a much better chance of performing on a Saturday - hard work pays off.”
I’ve watched you a lot this season and there seems to be a maturity to your game now. You’re almost the epitome of a team player, do you feel that you’ve evolved into a better all-round footballer?
TW: “I definitely think that I’m a better player now. I’ve got more to my game but I know that I need to score more goals.
“I need to be more of a hybrid player. It’s good that I can help the team but sometimes I need to sacrifice that side more to get into the box and get goals.
“If you look at key passes, chances created and assists then I’m right up there. I do enjoy that side of the game but sometimes you need to be selfish and add a few goals.
“It’s about finding the balance in the performances. I think people need to remember that I’ve never started as many games in a row as I did last season.
“It’s mad that I’m 27-years-old and that’s the first time I’ve played 25 plus games.”
Your role within Graham Alexander’s tactical set-up is different to where you’ve played at previous clubs. Devante Cole has played centrally while you’ve predominantly been off the left, do you have a preferred position?
TW: “I do prefer playing through the middle because I’m a striker, first and foremost.
“I think that I hold the ball up well, I can get in behind, I work hard and with the way we’ve played, I feel that I can drop and link the play.
“Devante was excellent after the manager came in and it allowed me to go wide. It worked really well and I don’t mind playing on the left.
“It lets you get on the ball more, it gives you more freedom and more space so it does benefit me at times.
“But I’d play anywhere for this team; holding midfield, left-back or centre-back. You feel like a little kid when you’re on the pitch but you can be absolutely lost when you miss out.”
You missed a spell of the season but you pushed yourself to return for the Scottish Cup tie against Hibernian and your introduction completely changed the game.
By all accounts, it was very unlikely that you’d play that afternoon but does the fact you played epitomise how determined you are to be successful at Motherwell?
TW: “I’ve always put the team first because they pay your wages and look after you in life.
“I did put my body on the line because it was impossible to train before that game. I was really struggling as I had a shooting pain in my heel but I trained on just one foot and I had to stand on my tiptoe with the other.
“During the game, adrenaline just got me through it and I only really felt it at one point of the game.
“I was delighted to get to extra-time and I thought we were on top of Hibs but it’s just unfortunate how it ended - it showed the luck that we’ve had this season.
There seems to be a really strong core group and team spirit developing at Motherwell. It seems like a really positive club and a good place to play football….
TW: “Motherwell really looks after you and there’s no doubt about that. If you need some help with anything then it’s a club where I’d be comfortable to ask for it.
“They do some outstanding work within the community and it’s a club that cares about the people in the local area.
“I feel completely at home at the club and they really care about you both on and off the football pitch.”
It’s set to be a huge summer at the club with a high turnover of players and Graham will have his first full transfer window to implement his ideas.
Generally, supporters are excited about the prospect of new players joining the club but is it the same from within the dressing room?
TW: “Last season was the first time that I’ve been at a club where there’s been a huge turnover of players. I’ve been used to being at clubs where only a few players come in and out.
“I don’t mind it [when the squad changes significantly] because you have pre-season to get your work in and to get to know everybody.
“Hopefully that’s the case and we can fly at the start of the season. I felt really good during last pre-season about our prospects but it just never clicked for us.
“I don’t think we were far away for a lot of the games so we need to take that on board to build next season.
“If we can close the percentages then I believe we can challenge for the top six or higher.”
It’s been a bizarre season with all the restrictions in life and in football but how have you found it as a player?
With your profession being in the public eye, it can be forgotten that footballers are still under strict restrictions like the rest of the country….
TW: “I’ve genuinely been okay because my routine has always been the same and it’s not changed too much.
“I go home to my wife and we do most stuff together. We might see friends when there is no lockdown but we’ve been really lucky in terms of having everything at our fingertips.
“We’ve had each other and it’s the most settled I’ve been. I can’t complain because there've been a lot of people in much worse situations than me so I’ve been really lucky in the last year.
“It is strange on the pitch. Sometimes it feels like a training game but you need to find your own motivation to get through that and push on.
“You need to find inner motivations during the game and I had to adjust some of the things that I do to make sure that I felt I was in a proper game.
“There was a lot of that because it’s so different without fans. Sometimes it’s like you’re in a pantomime when fans are there because they can buzz things and players take their energy from that.”
In terms of your career, you’ve played in a few different countries which is uncommon for Scottish players.
They normally stay in Britain but do you feel that you’ve benefited from playing in different environments and those experiences? Has it provided you with a different perspective on football?
TW: “I’ve improved massively technically from playing abroad. Not many players go abroad at 19-years-old and take themselves out of their comfort zone.
“I could have easily stayed in Scotland or went down south but I wanted to do something different and get away from it all.
“I just wanted to be happy and that’s something that I’ll chase for the rest of my career. I’ve told myself that I want to extend my career and it’s about making sacrifices in life and looking after my body.
“I want to play into my late thirties because I feel that I’ve missed out on a few years in my career.
“I’ve had really good spells in my career but it’s now about having longevity and extending it for as long as possible.
You’re still only 27 years old, do you have any targets or goals that you want to achieve over the rest of your career?
TW: “My only target is to play 40 games next season. I want to start as many games as possible but that’s down to my performances.
“I want to play for another seven or eight years and I want to look back on my career to see that I’ve played 300 or 400 games.
Two of your teammates, Stephen O’Donnell and Declan Gallagher, will be playing on the biggest stage with Scotland at the EUROs this summer.
How buzzing are you for them and what was the build-up like around the Motherwell squad before the final squad was announced?
TW: “It’s credit to both the boys that they show their level when they go away with the national team.
“They were a massive part of getting Scotland to the EUROs alongside the rest of the squad and it’s been brilliant for the club.
“I never had any doubts over their places in the squad. I remember seeing Steve Clarke in the stands for our game against Kilmarnock and they were both excellent.
“SOD scored and Declan strolled it so I was absolutely buzzing for them after the game because I knew that they’d be involved.
You’ve been capped for Scotland before, do you hold any ambitions of earning a place back in the squad if you can maintain a high level of performance?
TW: "It’s not something that I really think about regularly. It would be a great honour but I’m just happy to see all the boys doing so well.
“I speak to David Turnbull a lot and I’m buzzing that he’s in the squad. I just want to concentrate on my football at club level and I’m really happy with that.
How much of an impact can Turnbull have this summer? He’s arguably our most creative midfielder and he offers something different from our other options...
TW: “David is a brilliant player and he’s a top, top talent. He can do whatever he wants to do in the game but it’s just about being patient for him.
“He needs to try to force his way into Steve Clarke’s plans and try to make an impact when he comes off the bench.
“I think the manager probably has the majority of his team picked and David just needs to try to force his way into his plans.
“It’s still very early days for him and maybe I’m biased but I think he’s a starter for Scotland. I think he’s good enough but so are the other players in that position - thankfully that’s not my job.
“Scotland has a really good squad and I don’t think we’re there to be the whipping boys.”
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