Now the dust has settled on my move to Belgium, I’ve agreed to jot down a little insight into my life as a (ever so slightly) young guy playing football for talkingbaws.com – and I’m looking forward to getting started.
Although London is one of the most desirable places in the world, I wanted to give it up to come back to Belgium. To be completely honest with you, the last eight months there I felt totally out of place. My time at Charlton was up for a while and I knew I needed to find somewhere I felt wanted and needed. Despite this, it was definitely a club that gave me many of my fondest memories.
In my first period there I played under Bob Peeters and, after a tough period at Standard Liege, he drilled confidence into me like I’ve never experienced. It’s just a shame he didn’t stick around long. More notably, Guy Luzon gave me some of my greatest moments playing football. He was a sort of father figure and he definitely brought out the best in me. Looking back I do wish he stayed for longer, but unfortunately that’s football.
I believe I can rediscover that feeling of content at a club and that is exactly why I chose OH Leuven. People will look from the outside and ask ‘why OHL? Why Belgium? Why the second division?’, but hopefully this weekly blog can answer some of those questions and give you a view into my life from a distance. I’m not writing this to clear anything up or be negative in any way. I purely want to give fans, and anyone else interested, a look into my life, answer some questions and have some fun.
The real reason I chose OHL over other clubs was because I was searching for stability regardless of the division. Having worked with Wim de Corte, the technical director, before, after one conversation I knew what I was getting. I don’t believe there are many 23-year-olds (I was 19 when I first came here to Belgium, by the way) who would move abroad to work and be willing to leave everything behind for a new life. But it’s a project I genuinely believe in.
Last year I thought going home would give me the stability I needed, but, in all truth, it wasn’t the correct timing after injury and I was a half fit Tony Watt for the full season. That sounds like a excuse, but I don’t intend it to be. It just didn’t work out, but Hearts fans have been nothing but brilliant with me. I really wanted it to work out. The experience made me work the hardest I have ever worked this summer though. Seven kilos and 6% body fat later, on the 30th of June I was ready for my first pre-season in two years.
I still believe I have what it takes to play for my country again. If I didn’t believe in myself what would be the point in playing? My first and only cap to date came 10 days before I ripped my groin completely off the bone. I was enjoying my football and felt my career was going in the right direction. Unfortunately, that injury not only kept me out for four months, but also had a knock-on effect over the whole of last season. In the space of 16-20 weeks, a transfer embargo and a ripped groin ruined moves to two very good English clubs. Fortunately I’m young and, as I’ve said, I had a good summer to bring me back to where I need to be.
From my first minute on the pitch at OH Leuven I felt my decision was justified. Nothing beats the supporters singing for 90 minutes when you’re winning and for the 10 minutes after you’ve won. Belgium is different. The atmosphere is amazing. After the games, supporters and players interact like I’ve never seen before. A 7-1 win for my first game against the team at the top of the table probably helps to settle quickly. Unbeaten since and unlucky to go out the cup in extra time with nine men against a first division team shows the character this team has and without doubt the potential is there.
I’ve missed the past couple of weeks with a broken toe, but even while being out I have enjoyed cheering on the lads in our quest for promotion. The win over Cercle Brugge earlier this week was important for us and hopefully when I’m back I can bring something to a confident, winning team. I know I’ll rediscover my form and I’m very confident that OH Leuven is the perfect place to do that.
Tony runs popular movie and TV review website watttowatch.co.uk and will be offering us an insight into his life every midweek throughout the season. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.