BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
TONY WATT has rounded on the critics who branded him a Hearts “flop” as he vowed to make the naysayers eat their words.
Watt saw his six-month loan stint at Tynecastle peter out after a bright start, ultimately returning to Charlton with a record of one goal in 17 games from his time in Gorgie.
However, Watt believes he can look back on his Jambos spell – which included a Scotland call-up in September – with pride as he used his time north of the border to battle back from a long-term groin injury.
And the 23-year-old is adamant any jibes are water off a duck’s back.
He has now fought his way back into the Charlton side, starting their last two League One fixtures after finding a place in the good graces of boss Karl Robinson.
Watt slammed: “A lot of people are saying ‘Hearts flop’ but I don’t think I was a flop. I didn’t set the world alight but there’s always reasons for that.
“Did it bother me reading or hearing people say that? Not one bit. That’s from people who have no impact on my life. People are going to be negative about me. That’s just the way of the world.
“Whether it’s it’s bitterness, spite, jealousy – people are always going to say stuff.
“But the only people that matter to me are my family and the people I work under. My career isn’t on the slide. I showed glimpses at Hearts of what I can do and I know it’s going to happen for me, I just need to bide my time and work hard.”
Watt has turned out for Celtic, Standard Liege and Charlton permanently, while loan stints at Lierse, Cardiff, Blackburn and the Jambos have seen him represent seven clubs at the age of just 23.
However, he has passionately defended his achievements so far, while dismissing the notion he is disruptive influence or a journeyman in the making.
Watt explained: “People say it hasn’t happened for me. Well, I went to Charlton for six months and did well and helped keep the club up. I went to Cardiff and they tried to buy me but had a transfer embargo. I went to Blackburn, did well again – then ripped my groin.
“I’m 23 and if you look over my career there isn’t a failure in sight. I’ve never been relegated and there’s a lot more to come.”
Watt did not start a single match under Hearts head coach Ian Cathro, but was effusive in his praise for the 30-year-old – and has no doubt he will also win over those who questioned his ability.
He continued: “All the people in the papers saying he is too young will be hailing him as the new messiah if Hearts win 10 matches in a row. That’s just how it works. You cant take it seriously.
“I saw people slagging him, but I also saw people standing up for him and I found that refreshing. Look at where he has been. You don’t get that experience if you don’t have a clue.
“It’s not about age. In two or three good years he will be worth a lot more than a 50 or. 60 year old manager is worth. I think Ian Cathro will go on to have a top job in football – I didn’t start a game under him but I honestly couldn’t speak more highly of him.”
He emerged as a youngster at Celtic with Hibs gaffer Neil Lennon, scoring eight goals in his two years as part of the first team under the Northern Irishman. And he expects a fascinating clash between his former bosses.
Watt added: “Neil Lennon had his own philosophy as well and got the team playing. That Celtic team was one of the best I’ve played in so I don’t have a bad word to say about him.
“He is the one who gave me my chance and played me in big games. I owe Neil Lennon a lot and it will be interesting to see the two going head to head on Sunday. I’m sure his hips team will give Hearts a good game at Tynecastle.”
Tony Watt was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.