Ollie Watkins gets huge Euro 2024 boost as Aston Villa star aims for Villa Park first

Ollie Watkins
Ollie Watkins -Credit:Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Thanks to UEFA's impending decision to allow managers to take 26-man squads to Euro 2024, the likelihood of England leaving behind Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins now looks highly unlikely.

UEFA is set to approve this change, allowing coaches like Gareth Southgate to include three additional players than initially planned. This means Southgate could bring both Watkins and Ivan Toney to Germany as back-ups for Harry Kane.

Previously, it was thought that only Watkins or Toney would be selected, and after their performances against Brazil and Belgium, many suggested that the Brentford striker had the upper hand. However, with the expanded squad size, even a cautious coach like Southgate can afford to select three traditional strikers.

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While having 26 players may seem excessive, it should prevent the potential injustice of Watkins being left out. Despite his low-key nature, Watkins deserves more recognition.

In an interview while on England duty in October, the player himself hinted at this, reports the Mirror.

"I go under the radar, maybe," commented Watkins. "I'm not talked about enough, profile-wise. A lot of people said to me I need to push my profile ... but I'm not really too fussed about that."

The Villa striker isn't commanding as much attention in the media sphere as Toney. Particularly when Toney made a high-profile return from an extended gambling ban.

Regardless, Watkins is an unsung hero who steadily goes about his business and commendably continues to enhance his game at 28. The Premier League has been introduced to a more lethal version of him this season - one whose passing vision has improved, tackle strength has been amplified, and aerial capability has increased.

Villa manager, Unai Emery, deserves some props for Watkins' growth but it's evident that Watkins himself has strived to reach newer peaks. In the tally of his 19 Premier League goals, it's notable that none have been penalty kicks.

Leaving penalties out of the equation, Watkins is three goals ahead of Erling Haaland and Dominic Solanke. Furthermore, Watkins leads the Premier League assist board with 12 assists, while Haaland has provided five and Solanke three.

Even if Haaland contributes to Manchester City clinching one or two trophies this season, he's unlikely to scoop up individual accolades again. His teammate Phil Foden is tipped to do that.

Ollie Watkins celebrates after Aston Villa's win at Arsenal
Ollie Watkins celebrates after Aston Villa's win at Arsenal -Credit:Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Foden has indeed delivered some standout performances this season, but it should be Watkins who is the favourite. The deadline for voting in the Football Writers Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year award is next week.

When casting votes for such awards, it's easiest to consider a player whose significance to his team is immense. There are many, but none are more vital to their teams than Watkins is to Villa.

Since its establishment in 1947, the FWA award has been won by players from 23 different clubs, with Liverpool leading the pack, having produced 15 winners. However, no Aston Villa player has ever received the award.

It would be fitting and appropriate for Watkins to change that ... and then jet off to Germany.

Should Ollie Watkins be awarded the Football Writers Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year award? Let us know what you think in the comments