Ollie Watkins reveals what he told Cole Palmer before ‘bread and butter’ winner for England

Will Ford
Palmer Watkins England
Cole Palmer set Ollie Watkins up for the England winner against the Netherlands.

Ollie Watkins revealed he told Cole Palmer they would connect for England’s winner after the substitutes combined at the death to send Gareth Southgate’s side to the Euro 2024 final.

After Harry Kane’s spot-kick cancelled out a superb Xavi Simons opener, Wednesday’s semi-final against the Netherlands looked set to go to extra time just like the Slovakia and Switzerland matches earlier in the knockout stages.

But Southgate’s bold decision to replace captain Kane and Phil Foden with Watkins and Palmer in the 81st minute proved a masterstroke.

‘I manifester it’

The Chelsea star fed his fellow substitute to turn and hit a wonderful 90th-minute winner, sealing a last-gasp 2-1 comeback victory and a place in a second successive European Championship final.

“I’m lost for words, really,” super sub Watkins said. “When you score there are emotions that come through your body but this is a different feeling.

“It was slow motion when I was running over to the boys and celebrating.

“I didn’t want to get off the pitch at the end because I wanted to soak it all in because it doesn’t happen very often really.

“The goal is my bread and butter, running in behind and causing defence trouble.

“I said to Cole we were both going to get on the pitch and he was going to set me up at half-time. It happened. I manifested it.

“As soon as he turned I knew to make the move. You don’t get that opportunity very often. I had to be greedy.

“I’ve seen it go in the bottom corner. I don’t think I’ve hit the ball that sweet before in such a special moment.”

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‘Give me the lottery numbers!’

Watkins’ life changed forever in Dortmund in what was just his second appearance of a challenging tournament for Aston Villa’s main man.

“Recently, I’ve got a little bit frustrated,” he said. “I don’t like to be on the bench. I’ve had the best season of my career.

“I’ve had a few messages from my friends saying be patient. The amount of people I’ve had message me today saying I’m going to score tonight when I come on is ridiculous.

“Obviously they put it out into the universe so hopefully they can do the same for the final or even give me the lottery numbers!”

Watkins always believed in his ability to make an impact for England at these Euros – something he would not have believed when on loan from Exeter at Weston Super Mare in 2014-15.

“I never thought I would be playing in the Euros for England,” he said. “You can dream but I’m a realist, I take it day by day.

“At that time, I was just focusing on getting back into the first team at Exeter! I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to this point. I’m going to enjoy every moment.

“I didn’t dream about that to be honest as a kid. I can’t lie to you and say I dreamed about that.

“I didn’t think I would be doing it in a tournament like that. But when I’ve been on the bench I’ve said to Dean Henderson, I can make a difference today, I need to get on that pitch.

“I’ve taken the chance when I’ve got it. Now we’re in the final and one last game.”

Watkins nearly forgot his player-of-the-match trophy as he left the press conference, perhaps due to focus already switching to collective glory in Berlin this weekend.

“As you’ve seen, Spain are a great footballing team,” he added. “So many good players, a lot of squad depth like ourselves.

“It’s the most important game of our lives. We’re fully focused on that.”