Aston Villa manager Dean Smith believes hard work and determination are behind Ollie Watkins’s meteoric rise to the England squad.
It was a first call-up for the 25-year-old and comes just six months after making his Premier League debut.
Watkins joined Villa from Championship club Brentford in September last year. The Torquay-born ace bagged 49 goals from 143 appearances in all competitions for the Bees.
His 25 second-tier goals last term helped the west Londoners to the Championship play-off final. They lost to Fulham but Watkins ended up in the top flight after moving to Villa Park.
He has flourished with the West Midlanders, scoring 12 goals from 25 outings – 10 in the Premier League. That attracted Southgate’s attention and Smith feels it justifies his move north.
“It’s a very proud moment and well deserved for Ollie. I have spoken glowingly about his attitude and how hard he works,” he told Friday’s press conference. “I’m thrilled for him and his family, we told him that Aston Villa could be a great platform for him and so it has proved.
“I called him as soon as it was announced and I could tell from his voice how happy he was.”
Watkins answers all the questions
There is always an element of doubt when a player who shines in the Championship moves up a division. But Watkins has made a seamless transition to the big time.
The undoubted highlight this term has been a hat-trick in the 7-2 rout of champions Liverpool back in October. But there is much more to his play than just goals.
And the Villans boss feels his success is down to a superb work ethos.
“One of the questions when I met up with him in the summer was how can you get me into the England squad but I can honestly say he has got himself into the England squad – he’s worked very hard since he’s been at Villa and he’s a joy to work with,” he added.
Smith recognises how ambitious the youngster is and feels Thursday’s news is just the beginning.
“But just getting into the England squad won’t be enough for Ollie he will want to get on the pitch for England, he’ll want to start and he’ll want to score goals for England,” he continued.
“He’s one of the most hard-working individuals that I’ve worked with. Everyone at the football club is thrilled from him.”
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