27 year old Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins is enjoying another good season with his club, particularly as he is now adding European experience to his career, given their stint in the Europa Conference League this year.
With 12 appearances to his name so far in the 2023/24 campaign, he has already found the net seven times, albeit not quite prolific and regular, as he has two hattricks already under his belt, and this week his general form has been rewarded by a return call up to the England international squad, and he has signed a new contract at Villa Park.
The other day, England manager Gareth Southgate named his squad for the upcoming Australia friendly and the 2024 European Championship qualifier against Italy, and Watkins was back in the set up, and it is a good nod to the energetic Watkins who last featured for his country back in March 2022.
Watkins had himself, prior to the call up, stated that he did not feel he could ‘do any more’ to impress the England gaffer, but clearly he has and many will wonder if he now takes the spot of Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling who has been left out for a fourth successive squad.
England fans will have some issues with the squad selection, but West Ham United attacker Jarrod Bowen returns again having missed out on the Ukraine and Scotland games back in the September international window.
Speaking about Watkins inclusion again, 53 year old Southgate explained.
“Ollie has definitely improved under Unai Emery. Ollie got a timely hat-trick at the weekend. But it’s not just because of that – because you have to be very careful on picking players on one or two performances – but we have worked with him before and we really like him.”
Southgate’s critics will pick up on ‘one or two performances’ given his selection choices in the past, and the lack of game time some of them have with their clubs, and Villa fans would also probably argue that Watkins has not improved under Emery – he is back to his form under Dean Smith when he first signed. Villa fans will not talk about the Steven Gerrard experiment that impacted the form of every player at the club.
But to pick up Southgate again, Eddie Nketiah and Levi Colwill are back in the squad. As is Jordan Henderson despite his monied move to Saudi Arabia, and many will think more out of spite, Harry Maguire retains his place despite only playing twice for Manchester United so far this year.
Watkins will naturally be delighted, and many fans will continue to wonder how much longer will some of the more bizarre selections continue for.