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Danny Stewart: Tony Watt could do worse than heed Kenny Miller’s tale

Kenny Miller nets against England at Hampden
Kenny Miller nets against England at Hampden

Two Scottish strikers, each with experience of playing for a dozen clubs – Celtic and Cardiff City being a common link – have been in the headlines.

Fourteen years and, in terms of their early roots at least, 40 miles of the M8 separate Tony Watt and Kenny Miller.

Yet as the former bids to rebuild his reputation in the game at Motherwell, he would do well to study Miller’s tale.

It is a story jam-packed with success and self-reinvention in equal measure.

He is not able to boast – as Watt can now and forever –- that he once scored a Champions League winner against Barcelona.

It is just about the only area where Miller comes up short.

In announcing his retirement from playing ahead of a move to coach in Australia with the Newcastle Jets, the 40-year-old bookends a career that, by any standards, is remarkable.

He made 823 appearances, scoring 268 goals, and he is one of the few players to have scored in four different decades, a distinction he shares with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Miller had three spells with Rangers, and when he moved to Celtic from Wolves in 2006, he became only the third player since the Second World War to play for both the Glasgow rivals.

Alfie Conn and Maurice Johnston were the others.

He won eight trophies with the Light Blues, two with the Hoops and picked up a play-off winner’s medal at Molineux.

The willingness to take on the challenge of playing on both sides of the Old Firm divide was also evident in his openness to try different football cultures.

He saw action in Turkey, Wales and Canada, as well as Scotland and England.

For the majority, perhaps, it will be for his appearances in a Scotland shirt that Miller will be best remembered.

Part of the generation doomed never to represent the country at a major Finals, he won 69 caps and never let anyone down, especially not in terms of effort and endeavour.

For Miller to reference those caps as: “the greatest honour any young Scottish kid could have” in his farewell was a lovely touch.

Whether Tony Watt will be able to speak in similar terms of having made the very most of his career when it comes time for him to hang up his boots remains to be seen.

Certainly, there remains a lot of work to be done on that front.

As Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson said on confirming the player on a short-term deal, he still has a lot to prove.

For a striker of his early potential – he was just 18 when he scored the goal against Barcelona in 2012 – to have reached 26 with only one Scotland cap to his name is a story of wasted opportunity.

Watt can argue the measure of his success, or lack of it, depends on who he is judged against.

The history of Scottish football is littered with examples of players blessed with extravagant talent but lacking the necessary mentality to succeed in the unforgiving environment that is professional sport.

Derek Riordan and Garry O’Connor, like Miller, had their careers launched at Easter Road.

But neither had the stamina to keep making the most of themselves year after year, decade after decade.

Which is why Watt should pay such close attention to Miller’s tale. Were he to keep playing for as long, he would have 14 years of his career still in front of him.

That, admittedly, would be quite an achievement.

But even the effort of striving to model himself on the 40-year-old would surely serve Watt well.