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Watt Justification? Letting Tony Leave a Further Frustration

Some of the sales have been justifiable. Joe Gomez deserving his move to Liverpool, and providing the club with a sum of money that could not realistically be turned down.

Some of the departures have been player instigated. There is an argument that club could have done more to keep Diego Poyet, but the boos sent his way at Stadium:MK suggests many think the manner in which he left for West Ham is worthy of criticism.

And some of the moves have come about as a result of a player needing to play more first team football. Lawrie Wilson and Rhoys Wiggins both wonderful servants to the club, but it was probably the right time for both of them to move on.

But that there has been an element of logic in some of the departures under Roland Duchatelet’s reign takes little away from the anger caused by a number of situations where players have bizarrely been transferred out of the club.

Nor does it make it any less frustrating that a theoretical XI formed of former Charlton players that have departed in the previous two years or would be quite a force.

Ben Hamer and his startling beard could stand between the sticks. Michael Morrison and Dorian Dervite would be the leading candidates to form a sold centre-back pairing, with Gomez and Wiggins either side of them. Poyet sitting deep, allowing Dale Stephens to be a more creative influence alongside wingers Frederic Bulot and Wilson.

Up top would, of course be Yann Kermorgant. The sale that has caused the largest amount of anger among Charlton supporters, and one that continues to be rightly held against Duchatelet and Katrien Meire.

And now it would appear that Kermorgant has a forward partner in this team of the unwanted. A partnership that many haven’t been able to think about without fainting in excitement since February of this year.

For Tony Watt, the catalyst behind the on-the-pitch upturn in fortunes last season and a mightily impressive figure at the beginning of this, has been allowed to join Cardiff City on loan. A loan that, given previous examples of moves like this and the fact an agreement is in place, is likely to become permanent.

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On the face of it, sanctioning such a move would appear to be yet another action of self-harm from those at the top of the club. Another wound opened up just as events on-the-pitch had applied a plaster or two.

For the Scot possessed an ability to a change a game that few other players in my time supporting the Addicks have been able to match. At a club where tenacious graft makes players valued, and collective performances are celebrated in heart-warming fashion, Watt’s individuality was both different and exciting.

His directness, never afraid to take on an opposition defender and attempt to carve an opening out of nothing, proved a wonderful attribute at its best. He pushed entire sides onto the back foot, created space for himself and his teammates, and last season’s run of seven wins from nine would not have been possible without his influence.

The solo strike against Huddersfield, the skill to keep the ball in the corner against Nottingham Forest, the run to set up Simon Church against Reading. A roar of anticipation each time Watt carried the ball forward, which grew louder after his performances and goals at the start of this season.

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And while he has been unable to match the game-changing impact he made against QPR, along with the goal and performance against Derby County, you could quite clearly see that the Addicks were weaker whenever he wasn’t in the side. His ability to carry the ball sorely missed.

In fact, even in his final appearance against MK Dons, the only opportunities Charlton carved out during a dire display came through Watt’s endeavour to get forward. Excitement from the way end still existing whenever he attacked.

That isn’t to suggest his performances, hindered by horrendous decision making and a growing frustration that frequently meant his forward runs were little more than stutters, were up to scratch. He certainly wasn’t providing the impact required at a time when Charlton were without a win in 12. The game changing impact he showed when it was needed most last season.

As such, it was apparent confidence was lacking. An asset so crucial to the Scot.

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But now that confidence, on the back of the impressive victory over Sheffield Wednesday and the hard-thought win at St Andrew’s, has seeming returned to the side, Watt would appear the sort of player that you want involved.

An environment, irrespective of the continuing protests against the ownership, in which Watt can rediscover his best form is appearing. Where his teammates can share their confidence with him, as he instilled confidence in them last season. With those around him now performing, he has a platform from which he can attempt to display his individual flair and brilliance with less risk, and less resulting frustration.

At the very least, particularly given the size and health of the squad, he’s a player you want to have around as an option.

Ricardo Vaz Te will take a few weeks to get up to full fitness, and you would hope is the replacement for the injured Igor Vetokele. Simon Makienok has been frustratingly inconsistent, both in performances and in keeping fit. Reza Ghoochannejhad yet to earn the trust of supporters, irrespective of his efforts against the Owls.

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Even the emergence of Ademola Lookman, a 17-year-old who shares the direct and confidence style of Watt, is not a justification for his departure. Lookman was lively against Birmingham, but so too did he tire quickly, and a lack an end product. You also worry that, like Karlan Ahearne-Grant, too much too soon will prove a hindrance to his development.

It seems that once the Addicks finally get a bit of strength in depth, a move is always made to return the squad to a somewhat fragile state. Based on previous evidence under this regime, it can be suggested that the decision to move Watt is, at least in part, financial. There being no desire to spend even a fraction over this theoretical budget in order to improve Charlton’s on-the-pitch prospects.

However, once you dig below the surface, you can possibly find some evidence to argue that the decision to move Watt on isn’t complete madness.

That does not include the suggestion that he is overrated, or not as good as we originally believed. The sort of frustrating revisionism that creeps in whenever a player moves on. It happened when Stephens, Kermorgant and Morrison were let go. It even happened when we were unable to retain Bulot.

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The main legitimate factor is the suggestion that the Scot was a disruptive figure in the dressing room. His attitude poor, his motivation lacking, and his workload not enough.

In truth, I think it’s a suggestion that has been born out of logical thinking, rather than clear evidence. The striker seemingly disruptive at both Celtic and Standard Liege, and moving him for a reason related to that makes more sense than those at the top of the club simply making another bizarre decision.

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And if that is the case, you can then argue that possibly the loan move to Cardiff will be more productive for him than simply staying in the same environment, possibly harming his teammates.

An opportunity to rediscover some motivation, and do some further growing up, under a manager in Russell Slade whose man management is very well regarded. Something that Watt maybe wanted, given a message he posted on Instagram thanking Charlton for making the move happen.

But then you could suggest that the failure to control a player that is something of a maverick is simply poor management. The Addicks quick to move him on, rather than fight to control him, and return him to the player he showed himself to be for a long enough period to suggest that is the ‘real’ Watt.

If Karel Fraeye wants to prove himself fit for the job, he shouldn’t be shying away from challenges like this one. He should be controlling the forward, and getting the best out of this maverick.

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Besides, his relationship with supporters was a strong on, and he appeared relatively well-liked in the changing room.

Having been one of the men brave enough to approach supporters at full-time following the Watford defeat, the supporter-player bond has always been tight, while social media puts a question mark against this disruptive influence accusation. Even today, Makienok showed his appreciation.

And if he is a poor influence, then the fact there is a permanent agreement in place almost defeats any of the possible positives of this loan move. If he finds his best form at Cardiff, he will no longer be a Charlton player. A player capable of providing excitement has seemingly been lost.

Either way, whether there’s some logic behind the move or not, it’s frustrating to lose a player capable of so much. Who, aside from those moments where frustration overwhelmed, provided more effort than arguably the other network signings combined. Who raised expectations each time he so much as touched the ball. Who prevented a complete implosion last season.

I really do hope we have not seen Watt represent the Addicks for the final time. If we have, I cannot help but feel it’s another weak decision under this regime.

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4 Comments

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Kyle, there is no question Tony Watt is an exceptional talent whose skill and contribution on the pitch may or may not be seriously missed at Charlton. There is also a recurring pattern at work here, wherein trouble seems to follow him around. From Neil Lennon on, his numerous managers have had major issues with Tony Watt. A good friend of mine, a Celtic supporter since birth, suggests Tony Watt is just trouble. Everybody currently offering up opinions on this still quite young player, including you and me, is working from speculation and supposition. I do know we just won two matches without TW in the line-up and the team spirit and determination on the pitch was something we have not seen for quite a number of matches, Perhaps an unsettling item has been removed from the mix. I expect he will make a solid impact at Cardiff (initially at least) and that will be good for him and for that club, Hopefully, those still at Charlton, along with perhaps the addition of some fresh faces in the coming weeks, will continue to do well. At this point, he is officially being “loaned” to Cardiff, but if Charlton does have continued success, you can bet that Tony Watt will not be returning and will eventually become a distant memory.

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Certainly appreciate where you’re coming from, but you’re dangerously close to a ‘move on’ narrative. The sort that has followed each major departure, many of which have go on to prove disastrous. At the very least, I don’t think winning games is a justification for moving Watt on.

  2. Terry Ryall says:

    Excellently detailed analysis and subtle overview of the complexities of the many factors that can contribute to the comings and goings of players at a football club. Getting that balance of outgoing and incoming players right is arguably the biggest failure, though by no means the only one, of the current ownership and is reflected in our current struggle. No-one would argue that it is an easy task and it isn’t helped by the alarming number of manager/head coach changes that have occurred at CAFC. Specifically on Tony Watt I agree that in an ideal world (given that he is such a young talent) it would have been far better if he could have been managed and retained at the Valley. For this to have been possible it’s likely that a figure such as the excellent Mick McCarthy would have been needed as a compassionate yet authoritative guide for a young talent. Watt has served Charlton well but maybe the move will be good him at this particular time.
    One thing that he won’t escape is yet another controversial ownership situation at Cardiff but the passionate fans will love him if he finds his form.
    .

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