Ollie Watkins eyes Joselu role for England after overcoming imposter syndrome

News Desk
England striker Ollie Watkins celebrates his goal against Australia.
Ollie Watkins celebrates his goal against Australia.

Ollie Watkins is ready to make his mark at Euro 2024 having overcome imposter syndrome to become one of England’s best strikers.

The 28-year-old was selected for the finals fresh from his best ever season, having scored 19 Premier League goals and provided a competition-high 13 assists.

Watkins was an unused substitute in the 1-0 win against Serbia in Sunday’s group opener and having to get used to being on the bench as he serves as back-up to skipper Harry Kane along with Ivan Toney.

But the Aston Villa sharpshooter is raring to go when called upon and believes he can help Gareth Southgate’s side in this summer’s quest to become European champions.

“I think it’s something that’s new for me,” Watkins said. “I’m used to playing every game. I have done across the last four or five seasons.

“I don’t enjoy being on the bench, I’m not going to lie. But I don’t think any player is happy to sit there and just watch their team.

“But I know my qualities and I’ll be ready when I get the opportunity.”

Watkins highlighted Joselu’s vital role off the bench as Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund to win the Champions League final as the kind of impact squad players can have on the biggest stages.

That is the kind of level the striker – competing at his first major tournament – believes he now belongs at, with a strong, confident approach holding him in good stead having found new heights with Villa.

“Mindset,” he said as the key to his improvement. “Mindset is huge. I spoke about it on a podcast, I was saying that you train every day physically and you can be really good technically, but it takes a lot.

“As a striker, you might not score for three games and then there’ll be self-doubt creeping in, in previous seasons.

“Now I’ll be calm because I know I’m going to get opportunities and then I’ll back myself to score. Whereas before I might have been down on myself a bit more.”

👉 Drop Trent? But he is England’s Pirlo or Xabi Alonso…
👉 England Clamour Rankings: Anthony Gordon offers Trent and Foden solution

Put to him it sounded like imposter syndrome, Watkins added: “Yeah, I would say so.

“Even when I first went to Villa. I’d just been bought for £30million and I was still unsure whether I deserved to be there.

“I hadn’t done it in the Premier League, so I would say there was a bit of that before. But now I’m in a really good place.”

That positive base saw him shine as Villa finished fourth, yet did not do enough to persuade some onlookers that he would make England’s final 26-man squad.

“From my perspective, the media maybe underestimated me,” he said.

“I had a really good year, got the most assists in the league, scored a lot of goals and people still wrest including me in their squads to come to the Euros.”

“Everyone has their own opinion, but I don’t feel like I have that big profile where I’m talked about.

“Or where if I was left out of the squad, people would be like: ‘Oh, I can’t believe they didn’t pick Ollie Watkins’. I’m happy I’m here now.”

Watkins is champing at the bit to prove his worth in Germany and believes he would work well with Kane if they were deployed together.

“I would like to play with H because he drops in deep, he can play the number 10 role and he picks up a lot passes,” he said.

“I feel it would be similar to when he was at Tottenham and picking the balls up and playing it through to Son (Heung-min). But I know we’re blessed with a lot of talent in the number 10 role.”

Watkins will not be darkening Southgate’s door with that suggestion as he wants to help the England boss rather than add to his workload.

That focus on the collective saw him play the role of Dusan Vlahovic in training ahead of facing Serbia, with Toney taking on the part of Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Now attention turns to Denmark, who will be looking to exact revenge for their Euro 2020 semi-final loss to England.

Put to Watkins that Thursday’s opponents feel aggrieved by the extra-time penalty converted by Kane, he said: “We’re very aware of that and also I feel like their team has probably actually got better since that last fixture.

“The boys are fully aware that they’re dangerous, they’ve had a lot of good players into that team and now they’ve got that experience as well. It’s definitely not going to be taken lightly.”