Smith names key attribute that earned Watkins his England place

Date published: Friday 1st October 2021 11:17 - News Desk

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins during a match

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith believes the mentality and application shown by Ollie Watkins has earned the striker his England recall.

The 25-year-old has three England caps to his name having been selected for the first time earlier this year – scoring off the bench on his debut in the win over San Marino.

He was included in Gareth Southgate’s initial 33-man squad for the European Championships but did not make the final cut.

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Watkins then missed the chance to play in the World Cup qualifying triple-header earlier this month having been sidelined with a knee injury.

But, despite not scoring yet this season, he has been recalled for the October fixtures against Andorra and Hungary.

“I always knew when Ollie joined up with the England squad that he would impress them in training and he’s obviously done that,” said Smith.

“I think he got on the pitch and scored his first goal obviously which we were all pleased with but he never made the final cut for the Euros.

“I think his performances already (deserve it) and that’s without a goal to enable him to get called up.

“The knee injury has been a frustration for him and us, we’ve had to modify his training a little bit because of it.

“But he knows how to get the best out of himself and his work-rate and what he does in training I think is enough to certainly take Gareth and Steve (Holland’s) notice and they were only too happy to call him back up.”

After naming his squad on Thursday, Southgate said Watkins would have been called up for the previous squad had it not been for his injury and that he had been impressed with the forward’s mentality during previous international breaks.

“His mentality is one of the strong points,” Smith concurred.

“It is why he is at Aston Villa and I can’t envisage a change in his mentality. He is a delight to have with his application, his attitude to training and games is exceptional and I believe that he’s probably been called up again because they saw that during his training when he was with England.

“I know he came on and scored a goal and he will be looking to try and work his way in and he knows when he plays that’s his chance to show everybody what he is about but he does that every day in training as well.”

Watkins will be hoping to toast his recall by getting off the mark for the season when Villa travel to face Tottenham on Sunday.

His England team-mate and Three Lions skipper Harry Kane will be on the opposing side, having hit a Europa Conference League hat-trick on Thursday night but also failing to score in the Premier League so far this campaign.

“It doesn’t surprise me because it’s a tough league to score in,” Smith said of Kane’s lack of goals.

“There’s obviously been an awful lot of speculation over him over the summer months and I believe he’s always going to be a target for defenders to test themselves to try and stop him scoring.

“So it’s a great challenge for anybody who’s playing against him but what top players do is they come through those periods and score goals like we saw last night – so our defenders will know they’ve got to be at the top of their game to make sure that they stop him scoring.”


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