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          Playmaker exclusive with L2 assist ace Elliot Watt

          On a quest for the perfect diag...

          2023/03/16 16:04

          Salford midfielder Elliot Watt has earned a reputation as League Two’s silkiest passer this season - but he readily admits to stealing parts of his game from Portuguese playmaker Ruben Neves coming through the youth ranks at Wolves. 

          A regular in Wanderers' Under-23 set-up back in 2017/18, the season in which Nuno Espirito Santo's senior side comfortably won the Championship, Watt spent hours on the training ground with Neves and he believes that ‘invaluable’ period at Molineux shaped the player he is today. 

          “I felt like I deserved to be there, so it wasn’t exactly surreal, but I signed a few weeks after Wolves were taken over and some world class players came in. You could tell something good was bubbling at the club.

          “I was pretty much with the first team training every day and then playing Under-23 games.

          “Neves was more my type of player. My game was similar to his in the way he tried to control games from a deeper position and sprayed long diagonal passes, stuff like that.

          “I saw my game that way before he came, but he was another level and I thought ‘This is what I want to be’.

          “It was everything: the way he checked his shoulder constantly and was always an option; the way he read the game and rarely needed to sprint because he was always in the right position. 

          “He was always plugging gaps, filling holes, screening opposition strikers and the more I trained with him, the more I tried to mould my game around his and also affect the game higher up the pitch with killer passes.”


          There have been killer passes galore this term for Watt, who joined Salford City last summer after two seasons at Bradford City (his destination after leaving Wolves back in 2020).

          The former Scotland youth international has racked up 14 League Two assists already this season for the Ammies to make him the leading supplier of goals across ‘The 92’ in 2022/23. 

          In addition to laying on those 14 goals, Watt has played more successful passes (1752) than any player in the fourth tier while also completing more key passes (98) than anyone in the division. 

          Watt believes his move to Salford in the summer has taken his game to another level and he credits Ammies manager Neil Wood, the former Manchester United youth coach, for much of his development.
          “There were a few clubs in League One interested when I left Bradford, but the big thing for me was being able to play for a manager with Neil’s values, who wanted to improve my strengths and weaknesses.
          “As soon as I spoke to the gaffer it was a no-brainer. I've still got plenty of time to take a step up in terms of level, but I felt that if I moved up a division too soon or joined the wrong club then I’d never be able to get that time back, in terms of my development. 

          “It was a big decision, but the right one and I’m loving every minute of it at Salford. 

          “It’s quite easy to look at me and judge me on my weaknesses: I’m not the most mobile, I’m not the quickest over the ground and I’m aware of that. 

          “But the manager here really values my strengths and the number six position is integral to the team and the way we want to play. Training sessions are geared towards the midfield and there are drills specifically for me to do extras receiving the ball and work on my positioning. 

          “It’s been an eye opener for me in terms of the coaching. It’s what I want and what I need to get to where I want to go.”


          Watt readily admits that his confidence has soared since leaving Valley Parade last July. “No disrespect to Bradford, I love the club and I love the people - even though I did use to get a bit of stick off the fans.
          “We just didn’t do well enough during my time there, to be honest. We struggled at times and when you’re playing for a team that’s not doing well, people’s confidence gets low. 

          “When the team’s also not playing in a way that suits your style, it just becomes more difficult to show what you’re capable of.

           “This season I’ve stuck my shoulders back and said “I’m going to be a key player for this team and in this league” to try and get Salford where they want to be. I feel I’ve done that and that confidence has probably helped me perform to the levels that I have so far.”

          There is a definite “family feel” to life at Salford, according to Watt, but it is a different story when it comes to the reception the Ammies receive from rival fans. 

          Given the club’s links to Manchester United’s famous ‘Class of 92’ and the ambition (and finances) of a project aiming to take Salford all the way from non-league to the Premier League, Watt agrees that the club is often cast in a role akin to that of a pantomime villain.  

          The antipathy towards Salford may have been something of a culture shock initially, but Watt is convinced that the hostile receptions the Ammies now take for granted only fuel their hunger to succeed. Eight League Two wins on the road and a league-leading away goal haul suggest their siege mentality is working.  

          “Our away record now is very good, but it was the polar opposite at the start of the season. 

          “Although Salford’s a real family club, we haven’t got the biggest following and when we go to away grounds it does sometimes feel like everyone is against you.

          “I can’t speak about what it’s been like in previous seasons, but I feel that it has actually helped us a lot this season and motivated us to show people the belief we have in ourselves and what we are all about.”

          @Getty /

          One ingredient that Salford’s promotion push has lacked this season is consistency: the Ammies’ longest unbeaten run in League Two to date standing at just four games. 

          Despite dominating “70-80% of our games” this season, Watt states that he and his team-mates are aware of the need to string together longer runs of positive results and they are intent on breaking the pattern at the sharp end of the campaign.  

          “We’ve spoken about the lack of consistency among ourselves and it’s hard to put your finger on, as our performance levels have been high for a lot of the season. We’ve dominated a lot of teams, but have lacked the killer instinct to kill games off. 

          “We have also had quite a lot of errors that have cost us. It’s frustrating when you look at the number of points that we have dropped when we shouldn’t, as they would obviously make a massive difference. It’s criminal really, but if you speak to the other 300 players in the league they would probably say something similar. The league table doesn’t lie at the end of the day. 

          “Now is a great time to find that consistency in the final run-in."

          Watt may have moulded his game on an elite Portuguese midfielder, but with the likes of Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and David Beckham involved at Salford in some capacity, there is a wealth of top class experience in the vicinity of the Peninsula Stadium. 

          @Getty /

          “From what others have said at the club, they (the owners, Project 92 Limited, whose main shareholders are Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville and Peter Lim) are a lot more present at the club now compared to previous years. 

          “They show their face and are approachable, just this Monday I was having a chit-chat with Ryan Giggs and Nicky. They give their advice here and there, and maybe heckle us when we’re doing our crossing drills!

          “It’s a bit surreal sometimes when you’re sat across the table speaking to Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, who have won so many trophies and had the careers they had. But that doesn’t mean they’re aliens and you can’t speak to them, they’re just normal people.” 

          As our interview draws to a close, the writer of this article chances his arm at a more philosophical question: ‘What are the differences between a good passer of a football and a great passer?’ - and I’m glad I asked, as Watt teems with enthusiasm and ideas on the subject.

          “My brother Jerome (a former England youth international who played in League One for Northampton) sent me an article the other day about the perfect diagonal pass, and how under-rated a skill it is.

          “People just see a long diagonal ball and think they’re all roughly the same. But, like this article said, the perfect diagonal ball has the perfect weight, the perfect length and the timing of it has to be right. 

          “There are a million variables involved when you’re playing football, and your decision-making to pick the right pass is key. Your technique, how you execute it, whether you rap it through the lines, play it in front of the person, to the safe side, there are so many things that can go into it. Is it the right pass to be playing in the first place?

          “My game is heavily dependent on my passing and it’s something I take the utmost pride in and constantly try to improve. I look back at every game and look at my stats, how many key passes I’ve played etc. I do everything to try and get to where I want to go.”

          Watt looks destined to climb the league ladder sooner rather than later and with Salford currently seventh, just seven points adrift of League Two's automatic promotion slots, the time is now for both the midfielder and the Ammies.

          "We’ve got 10 cup finals to play," he says. 

          "I'm not stupid enough to say we will be promoted, we may not achieve what we want this season, but we will have a right good go and won't give up easily."

          @Daniel Oliveira/Playmaker_EN

          Elliot Watt
          NameElliot Watt
          Born2000-03-11(23 -yrs-old)
          Dual Nationality
          PositionMidfielder (Centre Midfielder)


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