With football in the grip of financial uncertainty and the payment of transfer fees by Scottish teams increasingly becoming a thing of the past, a clubs ability to develop their own talent has never been more important. In recent years very few clubs in Scotland have embarked upon this as successfully as Motherwell. With Jamie Murphy’s move to Sheffield United as the most recent example, the Lanarkshire side hves shown that if done correctly, the nurturing of young talent reaps not only financial benefits, but can also be married up with success on the park too.

Josh Watt, who recently arrived on loan at Stark’s Park, is one of the current clutch of youngsters to emerge from the Motherwell Academy, and while he recently signed his first full time contract, he pointed out that when he originally joined the club, first team football was the last thing on his mind,

” I actually signed for Motherwell when I was 9. At that age I was just really excited to have signed for an SPL team. As you get older though and work your way through the youth teams, you obviously do start to hope that you’ll get that break into the first team. I’m only 19 so I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life there, but I’m really pleased at the fact I’ve spent so long at one club.”

Motherwell boss Stuart McCall recently spoke of his admiration for Academy boss Gordon Young, and Josh is also quick to praise his former coach and mentor,

” I’ve worked with Gordon for the last 3 years and I owe him a lot. He’s the one who gave me my first full time contract and he was my coach for a couple of years as well. He also helped me get my loan deals.”

” I approached the club about the possibility of first team football elsewhere and he helped to arrange the Airdrie move. The Rovers deal was slightly different though as they approached Motherwell after my loan expired at Airdrie.”

His move to Airdrie United in October of last year gave Watt his first opportunity to experience first team football, and while some players will always remember or even cherish their first competitive match, the winger looks upon his in a somewhat different light,

“It was interesting anyway. I signed for them on the Wednesday and trained with them the next day. I was told that night by Jimmy Boyle that I’d be starting on the Saturday against Partick Thistle. It wasn’t daunting but it was certainly like being flung in at the deep end. There was a big crowd, and I didn’t even know everybody’s name at that point. The opening half hour was a disaster, and by half time on my competitive debut we were 5-0 down. It ended up 7-0, I already had a massive low point in my career and I’d only played one match.”

He didn’t have  long to wait  for more positive experiences though,

“The next week we beat Dumbarton 4-3 with 2 goals in the last few minutes and I managed to get my first ever senior goal. I’d went from a real low in my first game to a real high in my second.”

” My second goal was actually against Rovers at Stark’s Park, I’ve never stopped hearing about it since I joined here! That was a big moment in my career because it was such a big game for both clubs. It was so early in the game too, I was buzzing when it went in. We ended up losing 4-3 though which was disappointing at the time.”

Although Airdrie have struggled this season, Josh earned glowing praise from both the management team and the fans during his time there. Whilst the club may not have managed too many wins during his spell, his experiences were virtually all positive,

“We didn’t really get the results in my time there, but Jimmy Boyle and his assistant gave me a lot of starts so I couldn’t have asked for any more. I met some great boys there too so I really enjoyed it.”

“I thought I played okay in my time there as well. Maybe not towards the end as I’d picked up a few injuries and I ended up coming off the bench a few times. I thought I contributed well though and I got good feedback at the time which was pleasing.”

The end of his loan spell saw him return to his parent club at the start of the year, and while Motherwell’s great form this season is fantastic for the club, it restricted his chances of a first team call up. It’s a situation that he’s realistic about,

“I’m not going to complain about not getting a game for Motherwell. Even after Jamie Murphy left there were still 3 or 4 wingers in front of me. No manager is going to change a winning team to fit in an inexperienced 19 year old, especially when the likes of Chris Humphrey, Nicky Law and Omar Daley are ahead of me. They’re going for second place and need to put out their strongest side.”

His latest attempt to gain experience has brought him to Kirkcaldy and he’s pleased with what he’s seen so far,

“I’ve loved it. I made my full debut on Saturday in the derby and that was a great experience, even 45 minutes before kick off the place was buzzing. Dunfermline brought a big crowd of fans down the road with them and that added to the atmosphere. It was my first taste of a derby and I was just happy to get a start in it.”

“Laurie Ellis was saying to me before the match that this was the type of game you want to be involved in and he’s right you do. It’s a step up from under-20 fixtures obviously but I really enjoyed it.”

Despite the importance of the occasion however, he revealed that he took it all in his stride and was delighted to play such a big part in the game,

” I didn’t really get nervous beforehand. I used to get a bit nervous before games when I was younger, but I play football everyday and I try to treat all matches as just another game, no matter how many fans are there.”

“There was a wee bit of an edge on Saturday though. I think some of the boys felt that there was probably a bit more pressure on them to win than normal. I think people maybe thought that everythingl that’s going behind the scenes at Dunfermline, will affect them on the park, but that’s not necessarily the case. They still want to finish as high as possible, its a derby and they’re being roared on by a big support. If anything the situation could even have fired them up more for the game.”

“Coming across from Glasgow I didn’t know too much about the Fife derby. I asked a few of the boys what to expect and they said it tended to be more gritty than fierce. There were a few tackles flying in right enough but I enjoyed it. A draw was maybe about right as both sides could have snatched it at the end.”

The recent announcement of Billy Starks under-21 squad was an ample demonstration of the benefits of going out on loan, with 3 players, Jamie Walker, Jason Holt and David Smith being named, who have all spent time on loan at Raith Rovers recently. It’s something that Josh can take encouragement from,

“I know those guys from playing against them and I know how good they are. If you can do well at First Division level then you’ll get noticed. It’s a good league to play in. On any given day, anyone can take points off of each other. If you’re maybe 19 or 20 and playing well then you’ll certainly get noticed. Stuart Bannigan of Partick is a great example, he’s really deserved his call up.”

Raith now face a hectic schedule with a flurry of midweek fixtures coming up, starting this week where, after Airdrie United on Saturday, the side travel to Dumbarton on Wednesday. While Josh is looking forward to meeting back up with his old teammates, his main aim is a good performance, and some wins,

“I’m really looking forward to the Airdrie game and I hope I get the chance to start. I made a lot of good pals in my time there so it’ll be good to catch up with them. It’s a big couple of games though, and to be honest, its games like this where we should be targeting wins. It’s great taking points off teams near the top of the league but you need to back that up with wins against the teams below you.”

” We should be looking to go forward rather than being satisfied with 6th. We need to see how how high we can finish in the league. I’ve played against Raith quite a few times this season, for Airdrie and pre-season for Motherwell so I know Rovers are a decent side. If we can recreate that form then I think the results will take care of themselves.”

There is however just one thing that Josh is slightly apprehensive about,

” It’s going to be a new experience for me, playing against a side that I’ve previously played for. I think it’ll be interesting to see how they take to me when I go back. Hopefully they’ll be good with me, I really enjoyed playing for them and I know I tried my best to help them out as much as possible. Sometimes an ex-player gets a hard time though, that’s just football I suppose. It should be good though.”

For a young man who only made his competitive debut in October, Josh Watt has managed to pack in some memorable moments into his debut season. Big games in front of large crowds, good performances and a couple of important goals too, there’s certainly a lot in there that he’ll hope to duplicate in the years to come. As for 7-0 defeats however, well hopefully that was just a one off.

Written by Shaughan McGuigan

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