'It needs to be looked at' - Motherwell boss Graham Alexander hits out at ruling allowing Tony Watt to play against future club Dundee United next month

Motherwell manager Graham Alexander has hit out at rules which would allow departing striker Tony Watt play against Dundee United – who he has signed a pre-contract with – next month.

Tony Watt celebrates with the Motherwell fans, some of whom he has now angered with his decision to leave Fir Park (Pic by Ian McFadyen)

The Steelmen are due at Tannadice on Wednesday, February 9, by which time 28-year-old Watt, the Scottish Premiership’s top scorer, will still have over three months to run on his Motherwell contract if United don’t thrash out a deal to sign him this month instead.

"It’s a strange situation, the pre-contract thing," Alexander said.

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"You don’t experience that in England – players signing pre-contracts and being able to play against the team that they are joining in the same league.

"Personally I think it’s something that needs to be looked at. I don’t think it’s right, but it is what it is so we have to deal with it and we’re trying to deal with it in the best way we can."

Asked if he would have any problem with starting Watt at Tannadice next month if he remains in claret and amber, Alexander added: "If he’s still here, no.

"At all the clubs I’ve managed, I’ve fallen out with players, but, as long as they come in and train well, I’ll consider selecting them.

"There are always issues that can muddy the water and distract footballers, but, ultimately, players want to train and play.

"They’re paid to do that, so if Tony is still with us when we play United, I’d have no qualms whatsoever about picking him.

"I had a 15-minute chat with him this week about why he’d been left out against Livingston after the news about his move to Dundee United became public knowledge.

"Tony’s assured me that he’ll crack on and be committed to Motherwell as long as he’s our player and that’s all I ask of anyone.

"All the players are at different stages of leaving the club - because they all do eventually, whether it’s next week, in six months or three years from now.

"But while they’re here I expect that commitment and I don’t anticipate anything different from Tony.

"I felt it was the right decision to take him out of the team for that one game because the story had just come out, but, if he’s still here when we play Ross County on January 18, then he’ll be in contention.

"Freeze him out? That’s not my way. You have to treat players as adults and, to be fair to Tony, he came to me to let me know that this was happening before anyone else knew.

"Fair play to him for that. I respect that."

Dundee United gaffer Tam Courts is keen to sign Watt early, with two United fringe players potentially offered to the Fir Parkers to sway the deal, but Alexander insists it will cost United if they want to land the striker before the summer.

Meanwhile, Motherwell have reportedly had a bid for Partick Thistle striker Zak Rudden rejected.

The former Rangers forward, who is also reportedly interesting St Johnstone, is out of contract in the summer but Thistle are unwilling to let the 23-year-old leave for a nominal sum.

St Johnstone have reportedly seen bids rejected but their boss Callum Davidson was in the main stand as Rudden netted against Hamilton Accies in a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Two other Scottish Premiership clubs are reportedly monitoring the situation while Carlisle United are amongst several English clubs credited with an interest.

Although Rudden is now free to talk to other clubs about a summer move away from Firhill, Partick manager Ian McCall doesn’t sound in the mood to be short changed.

"The offers so far have been daft," McCall told Football Scotland. "If clubs are genuinely interested then they need to get serious."

Scotland under-21 international Rudden has scored 10 for Thistle this season.