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Watkins: This is the best feeling ever

10 Jul 2024
Watkins

Aston Villa striker says he didn't dream of scoring the goal that would send England to EURO 2024 final

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"Best feeling ever" were the words from Ollie Watkins just moments after the Aston Villa striker sent England into the final of the UEFA European Championship. 

Watkins scored a superb last-minute winner to give his country a 2-1 win over the Netherlands and set up a meeting with Spain on Sunday as England look to win the Euros for the first time in their history.

"I've been waiting for that moment for weeks," Watkins told ITV Sport. "It's taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today.

"I'm delighted. I swear on my life that I said to Cole Palmer that he's going to set me up today and I'm going to score. It's the best feeling ever."

He added: "When I was on the bench I said to Dean Henderson I can make a difference today and need to get on. I didn’t dream about it [being such an important goal] to be honest. I can’t lie and say I did, scoring for England is amazing but I didn’t think I’d do it in a tournament like that.

"When you score there are emotions that come through your body but this is just a different feeling. It was in slow motion when I ran to celebrate with the boys.

"I didn’t want to get off the pitch at the end, I wanted to soak it all in as it doesn’t happen often."

From non-league to EURO final

Just nine years ago, Watkins was playing non-league football, for Weston-super-Mare, on loan from Exeter City.

"I never thought I’d be playing in the Euros for England," he said. "You can dream but I am a realist, I just take it day by day and one step at a time. I was just focused on getting back into the first team at Exeter!

"I have put a lot of work in to get to this point, not just this season. I will enjoy every moment!

"Recently I have obviously got a bit frustrated. I don’t like to be on the bench, I have had the best season of my career. A few friends messaged me and said be patient and the amount of people who messaged me tonight saying I would score when I come on was ridiculous. Hopefully they can do the same for the final or give me the lottery numbers."

Watkins
Ollie Watkins scores for Exeter City v Port Vale in the FA Cup second round in 2015/16

Watkins scored 19 Premier League goals in 2023/24 and set up a further 13, the most assists in the league. His 32 goal involvements were the second-most by any player in the competition.

But he has featured only off the bench, twice, at EURO 2024, with Harry Kane preferred to start by England manager Gareth Southgate. 

Kane also scored against the Netherlands and is the tournament's joint-top scorer, with three goals, but the former Tottenham Hotspur star, now of Bayern Munich, says Watkins was "outstanding" and may have produced the moment England will look back on as defining. 

Kane told ITV Sport: "We talk about being ready. We're a big team at being ready. When it matters, you might get five minutes, one minute, but you can make a difference, you can win us a tournament. He's [Watkins] been waiting, he's been patient. What he did was outstanding and he deserves it.

"I'm so proud of everyone. Every player, every member of staff, I'm so proud of them. To do what we've done away from home is really special. There's that feeling there's one more left and we need to do that."

Watkins and Kane

Ian Wright, the former Arsenal striker who scored nine goals for England and won a Premier League, says Watkins gave England something they didn't have with Kane on the pitch.

"Ollie Watkins' game is about stretching and getting beyond defenders," Wright told ITV Sport. "He is in between players. His movement has purpose. This is what Ollie Watkins does.

"This is the exact attitude I would want to have. You want Cole Palmer to come on and hit a pass that is perfect. In the moment, get back to the basics. It was absolutely perfect. Nobody did that to those defenders all night. They had an easy ride until he came on."

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