After being touted as the next big thing out of Scottish football, one-time Celtic prospect Tony Watt seemed to have the world at his feet, destined to follow in the footsteps of many before him and perhaps spark a new glory filled generation of the Scottish national game. However, almost nine years since his career-high moment as a fledgling teenager and now coming off the bench for Motherwell on a Monday night at Ross County, where did it all go wrong for Tony Watt?
Tony Watt: From Celtic’s Champions League Hero To Obscurity
The Height of His Career
Once pursued and training with Premier League champions Liverpool, in 2011 at just 17 years old Tony Watt left Airdrie United to sign for his boyhood heroes Celtic. Watt made his Celtic debut on 22 April 2012 in a 3–0 win over Motherwell, scoring two goals within five minutes of arriving off the bench. The world seemingly at the young Scot’s talented feet.
Soon after the start of the 2012/13 season, the youngster made his first start for the Hoops, scoring twice once more in a 4-2 away win at Inverness. As if anybody needed any more convincing of the potential of the young striker. Back in November 2012 on a cold night at Celtic Park, he came off the bench to score the winner against Barcelona of all teams, Messi included.
A week after the Barcelona match with all the hype that surrounded him Celtic seemingly shrewdly tied their asset down to a new four-year contract, expecting interest from numerous parties. However, what followed was an almighty fall from grace. From the highs and the elation of that famous night and earning a big contract at a tender age, it’s been somewhat of a downward spiral ever since.
The Downward Spiral
Despite his high moments, issues around whether Watt was mature enough or mentally capable of being a Celtic regular began to emerge from the club, he seemed quickly out of favour with manager Neil Lennon. The arrival of two new strikers at Parkhead in the shape of Amido Balde and Teemu Pukki meant the opportunities for Watt were limited, thus confirming his imminent departure, with this in mind he headed out on loan to gain more valuable match experience.
Belgian Pro League club Lierse took the 19-year-old forward for the 2013/14 season. It proved to be a positive move for both parties as the Scottish striker bagged nine goals in just 15 appearances for the club, despite claims from some quarters he was too fat.
His Belgian success lead to vast interest from clubs in the region, on his return to Celtic, the club received an offer of £1.2 million for Watt, an offer which was subsequently accepted. A vast profit on a player they had paid just £80,000 for a few years earlier.
It is since this ill-fated move that Watt’s career has begun to truly unravel. Most of his appearances for the illustrious Belgian club came as a substitute and just over four months after his debut he was sold to Charlton Athletic, where he enjoyed mixed fortunes. At first becoming an integral part of the squad, scoring regularly. However, as his time wore on a combination of injuries and reported ill-discipline in training saw Watt shipped out on three separate occasions on loan, scoring four goals in total.
It was around this time the striker made his international debut for Scotland in a friendly with the Czech Republic, coming off the bench to earn his only cap to date, more proof of the dramatic decline in the stock of the man it was once hoped could help resurrect Scottish football.
Following those unsuccessful loan spells Watt headed back to Belgium, this time with OH Leuven in the summer of 2017 where he hoped to get his own career back on track. 11 appearances and one goal later the striker was back in Scotland, this time with St Johnstone on a short-term deal, it seemed as though he had re-found his sparkle, the goal-scoring ability that had earned him those plaudits back in 2012. He scored six goals in the opening nine matches of the season, earning himself the Premiership player of the month award, however, what followed was a four-month goal drought.
After just one season with The Saints Watt was off on his travels once more, this time to Bulgarian Parva Liga to play for CSKA Sofia. With a record of three goals in 13 matches for the Bulgarians, Watt left the club by mutual consent, citing personal reasons for wanting to leave, midway through the season.
Now 26, Watt joined Motherwell in February where he made four appearances prior to the curtailment of the league in March 2020. He made his first outing of the new season from the bench in Monday night’s away defeat at the hands of Ross County, but it’s been a long road to get there…
In the end, it seems it may have been a case of too much too soon for Watt, an apparent lack of desire to work hard in the early days has lead him to this point, now with his 12th club, he is in danger of becoming a journeyman for all the wrong reasons.
Still just 26 he undoubtedly has time to forge a decent career in the game that once promised so much. That famous night against the Catalan giants when he became a Champions League hero, might truly be as good as it ever got for Tony Watt, still, not a bad career highlight for a lad from Coatbridge.