OLLIE WATKINS: WHY I ALWAYS FELT THE NEW THREE LIONS STAR WOULD MAKE IT
From the minute I saw him play, I had a feeling this kid would go places in football.
By no means am I a top football scout, but sometimes just from the way a player makes things look so effortless, you just know they will make it to the upper echelon of football, and that was the feeling I had with Ollie Watkins.
From his imperious running power to his clinical finishing, it was obvious that this footballer’s ceiling was not with my hometown club Exeter City in League Two.
One thing that always resonates with me surrounding Watkins was the low hush that would echo around St James’ Park whenever he got the ball in an attacking area and to get the pleasure of experiencing that for roughly a year was nothing short of beautiful.
It wasn’t always like that for Watkins though and he had to work pretty damn hard to get to where he is now and anyone who watched him play would understand just how determined he was to get to the very top.
So, to see him earn his first international call-up for England was probably not much of a surprise to anyone associated with Weston Super Mare, Exeter City or Brentford.
I doubt I’m in the minority when I say I don’t like the International break very much.
However, with England’s opening World Cup Qualifier against San Marino, a debut for Watkins had a good chance of happening.
And after watching England score four goals in 63 minutes and miss plenty of chances, Dominic Calvert-Lewin made way for Watkins – who became the first graduate from the Exeter academy to play for England since 1938.
As someone who follows plenty of accounts on social media associated with Exeter City, the happiness and emotion that everyone clearly had for this historic moment just showed how much Watkins is loved in the South West.
Now it was the question of if he could go one better and score on his debut, and for the next 27 minutes my glance was fixed firmly on Watkins.
Any touch in and around the San Marino box for an England player would soon be followed by a question in my head of ‘Where’s Watkins?’.
Marauding runs from deep by Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden posed, in my opinion, the greatest chance for Watkins to find some space and possibly score and it was the latter who delivered for him.
Foden found himself in space on the edge of the box, elegantly picked out Watkins who had dropped to just inside the penalty area, and in the style of England captain Harry Kane, edged the ball just slightly to his right before striking an effort across the goal and picking out the bottom left-hand corner.
It didn’t matter that it was already 4-0 or that it was against San Marino and you can tell that was the case from the sheer joy on Watkins’ face which I can only imagine matched a lot of expressions in the living rooms of many Exeter fans.
No player that I’ve ever seen in the flesh deserves this more than he does, his work ethic and humbling attitude combined with two talented feet make him an extremely relatable yet gifted footballer.
His move to the Championship could’ve seen him get lost in the shuffle but it didn’t, he thrived in England’s second tier.
The massive price tag that saw him become Aston Villa’s record signing could’ve seen him out of his depth, but once again he thrived and now, he has an England cap and goal, something that can never be taken away.
From his post-match interview, you could clearly see he was genuinely speechless but the work doesn’t stop there.
How he has been able to keep his feet on the ground despite all his astonishing accolades is admirable, having an ego bigger than your ability is often damning to an athlete but Watkins shows no sign of that.
And for me this tremendous moment is just one of many Watkins will obtain in what will be a glittering football career.