2014-17 Exeter City |
2014-15 Weston Super Mare AFC (L) |
2017-20 Brentford, £1.8m |
2020- Aston Villa, £27.72m, 40 (16) |
AT A GLANCE
Oliver George Arthur Watkins
Saturday, 30 December 1995
Wednesday, 9 September 2020
Dean Smith |
First Squad Appearance
Tuesday, 15 September 2020
Tuesday, 15 September 2020
Tuesday, 15 September 2020
Final Squad Appearance
(5 ft 9 in) 1.80 m
Player #950 for Aston Villa, Oliver George Arthur Watkins, known as Ollie Watkins has played as a centre forward for the club since the 2020-21 season.
Ollie was born in Torbay on 30 December 1995 and made his debut appearance for Villa at the age of 24 on the 15th September 2020 scoring his first goal for the club in the 39th minute of the 3-1 EFL Cup win over Burton Albion.
Villa had signed Ollie from Brentford for a fee of £27,720,000 on 9 September 2020.
Despite that being Villa’s record transfer fee by a significant amount - beating the £22,000,000 paid for Wesley, Watkins was unfazed by it “I am level-headed and I take it in my stride but it catches up on me. The day after I signed for Villa, I was in the hotel room with my mum and she burst into tears just before I went to training. I then just sat down and realised that I was like, ‘Corr, this is actually a big thing’ to come from Exeter, playing non-league to being a record transfer for a massive club like Villa is incredible.”
Despite having an excellent season with his former club Brentford, Dean Smith’s pursuit of Ollie was far more deeply ingrained than simply picking up the best talent available from the Championship. Indeed the Villa boss had first scouted Watkins whilst he was on loan with Weston Super Mare AFC from parent club Exeter City during the 2014-15 when Smith was in charge at Walsall.
Smith then snapped up Watkins after moving to Brentford.
As Watkins recalled:
“It’s nice to be back with the gaffer now. He really helps me. He actually spotted me from when I was on loan at Weston-super-Mare. Before I broke into the first team at Exeter he had spotted me when he was the Walsall manager. It spiralled from there.”
“He tells me that the difference with the top players and the average players is that they forget their mistakes quicker. It’s just more about mentality. I feel I’ve got all the ability but my mindset I had to change because I beat myself up. I still beat myself up a little bit now but that’s because I want to be the best I can be.
“The Liverpool game, for example, I scored three goals but I felt that I should have scored more. I’m always going to be striving for more. You can’t settle. If you look at Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s scored 700 goals but that’s the past and he needs to score more. That’s what I aspire to be like. You see how hard he works. He’s what, 34, and still wants to get better. I look at him and think, ‘Yeah, that’s something I want to do what he’s done in his career’.”
Watkins’ quest for greatness started well as he scored 8 goals in his first 10 games for Villa, hitting a hat-trick in that 7-2 demolition of reigning champions Liverpool on Sunday, 4 October 2020 and a brace in the 3-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday, 8 November 2020.
His hat-trick was Villa’s first since Christian Benteke against Queens Park Rangers in April 2015. In doing so Watkins had scored six goals in his first seven Premier League appearances for Villa, something only two other players had achieved - Dean Saunders (7) in 1992-93 and Dion Dublin (9) in 1998-99.
Ollie then embarked on a relative goalless streak seemingly falling foul of very marginal VAR decisions which ruled various parts of his anatomy offside including his shirt sleeve and armpit costing him and Villa equalising goals against West Ham United and filling his boots against West Bromwich Albion.
Ollie again didn’t score against Crystal Palace in Villa’s 3-0 win on Boxing Day but was bizarrely responsible for all three Villa goals as Bernard Traoré, Kortney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi followed up on his rebounded shots.
Despite not getting his goals, Ollie was proving an instrumental player in changing the Villa dynamic and creating a new found resilience and intensity to the team’s pressing play as his hold up play proved invaluable to Villa’s style under Dean Smith.
As Smith revealed:
“It’s fortunate that I know Ollie after having him for a couple of years at Brentford. His stats are really good.”
“He’s a robust player. One of the things when we take players in our recruitment department; we look at their last three years to make sure they’re at least getting 70 minutes of games.”
“That’s a big factor when we’re bringing them in because we want players who are ready to play 37 games a season and Ollie is certainly ready to do that with the numbers that he produces.”
Watkins ended his relative goal drought with the first goal in Villa’s win over Newcastle United on 23rd January 2021, before hitting the opening goal in the defeat at Burnley in the following game.
Watkins reflected on the start he had made to life with Villa saying:
“I’m loving Birmingham to be fair. It’s obviously different coming from London but everyone’s made me feel welcome and I’ve settled in quickly.
“All of the boys are welcoming and I played against a few of them in the Championship. Jack Grealish and John McGinn - the two main names - I even bumped into them in Mykonos when they were swaying me into getting me to Villa and it worked! McGinn is the biggest joker I’ve ever met as well.”
“The facilities at Bodymoor Heath are huge. The pool, sauna and everything. They’re making an even bigger complex as well. The family came around and we got a tour of Villa Park. I got my mum taking her shoes off saying, ‘I want to feel the pitch with my shoes off’. I had my older brother pretending to score and celebrating.”
“I really hope the fans are back in soon and I can feel the Holte atmosphere around the stadium.”
Watkins made it 13 for the season - hitting the third goal in Villa’s 3-1 victory over Fulham on Sunday, 4 April 2021 - yet that was his first goal in eight since hotting the winner against Arsenal. That though was not for the want of trying as he himself admitted:
“Every day, I’m working on finishing and I’m always wanting to do finishing drills. The other day I was doing finishing for like 45 minutes and the assistant said, ‘Come on, come in’ and I was like, ‘One more, one more’ because I just want to perfect my trade and be the best I can be.
“It was raining the other day and I saw the keepers running in and I said, ‘Oi, you! Get back here, get back here!’ but, sometimes, you want Emi Martinez in goal just because it’s realistic because if you’re scoring against a top Premier League keeper in training you’re going to do in a match.”
Despite his decent haul of 13 goals, including 11 league goals, Watkins could and should have had so much more to show for his sterling efforts - hitting the woodwork on seven occasions across his 29 league games to 4 April 2021, more than any other player in the top flight.