Brentford ace Ollie Watkins can use Mason Mount as his inspiration to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s England squad
MASON MOUNT’S England call-up will have been a huge source of encouragement to any youngster playing outside the Premier League.
It did away with the prerequisite that you HAVE to be playing in the top flight to make the Three Lions squad, boosting the prospects of others like Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins.
Getty – Contributor Ollie Watkins has emerged as one of the best young players in the Championship[/caption]
Reuters The Brentford ace, in action against Arsenal, has five goals to his name so far this season[/caption]
Premier League fans will know all about Aston Villa’s Grealish – particularly those of Tottenham, whom the slick-haired, short-socked starlet was close to joining in the summer.
But Brentford whizkid Watkins may be more of an unknown quantity for those that do not watch Championship highlights or skip over the lower-league coverage in Sun Goals.
A self-confessed “mummy’s boy” thriving in men’s football at an early age, Watkins has come a long way in a short space of time.
The Torbay lad came through the ranks at Exeter under master developer Paul Tisdale.
Getty Images – Getty Watkins, 22, is a silky forward with plenty of pace[/caption]
Getty Images – Getty Watkins celebrates scoring for the Bees in a 1-1 draw at Stoke in August[/caption]
Watkins had won the youth league with the Grecians playing in an academy that also produced Chelsea starlet Ethan Ampadu and landed his big break after impressing in a friendly against Bournemouth’s reserves.
The Premier League side had the likes of Lee Tomlin, Tyrone Mings and Christian Atsu playing and Watkins scored twice.
Tisdale liked what he saw and threw the prodigy in at the deep end against Plymouth shortly after.
The team won and in the first team Watkins stayed, eventually racking up 78 appearances before moving onto Brentford in summer 2017.
Technical improvements are widely considered more important than winning at all costs these days in youth development.
You only have to look at the success of our Lion cubs from Under-21 to Under-17 level over the last few years to see it is working.
But ironically Watkins cited honing a winning mentality under Tisdale as crucial to his development when I interviewed him in March.
He said: “Coming up through the youth team and the transition to the first team at Exeter, it’s about knowing how to win a game rather than just total soccer.
“A winning mentality is what we developed in the youth team. I always want to win and whenever I lose, I don’t take it lightly. I want to make it right the next week.”
Reuters The Bees will be looking to push for the play-offs again this term[/caption]
Getty – Contributor Watkins found the net 11 times for the west London outfit last season[/caption]
That dedicated approach helped Exeter all the way to the League Two play-off final two seasons ago.
Sadly, that day ended in tears – literally for Watkins, who wept as he left the pitch after a 2-1 defeat to Blackpool.
The loss hit the youngster hard as he felt he underperformed on the Grecians’ big day.
But Brentford’s meticulous scouts never make a judgement off one performance and still signed him that summer, safe in the knowledge that Watkins had more than proved his potential after a 16-goal campaign.
The move to London meant shy Watkins finally had to move out of his mum Delsie’s house where he had been living along with their Jack Russell-pug cross dog, Hugo.
Any fears over a switch away from home comforts were soon allayed as he found a two-bedroom flat in the west of the capital, with his brothers Jordan and Dale just down the road.
Getty Images – Getty Watkins is a successful product of the Exeter youth system[/caption]
Rex Features Watkins left the Grecians last summer to join Brentford[/caption]
And despite claiming to be the sort of character who needs time to familiarise himself with his surroundings before feeling at ease, Watkins took to Championship football instantly.
He blasted 11 goals in his debut term last season, thriving in Dean Smith’s free-flowing Bees side that just missed out on the play-offs.
Given his idolising of Thierry Henry as a kid and Cristiano Ronaldo as a professional, it is no shock to learn that Watkins’ dribbling, finishing and athleticism are his strongest assets.
Premier League snobs may consider the Championship to be rough ‘n ready but it is nothing compared to League Two.
Having handled that, Watkins was always likely to flourish in the second tier where you get more time on the ball, given his technical ability.
His work with Bees’ resident psychologist Michael Caulfield, who has previously helped Sam Clucas, has helped him cope better with the game mentally.
AFP – Getty Watkins grew up idolising the likes of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry[/caption]
Watkins often has the club chef cook him a high-carb meal the night before a game, is regularly off to bed no later than 10.30pm and has invested in NormaTec muscle recovery kit – all of which suggest he has the right attitude.
That is encouraged by his agent Paolo Vernazza, who would be the first to admit a lack of professionalism impacted his own career.
Vernazza came through at Arsenal and played a handful of games for the Gunners as well as a couple of England Under-21 games, before dropping down the leagues.
The 38-year-old is helping his clients learn from his mistakes and has built an impressive stable at Platinum One, which also represents Ampadu, Will Hughes, Ryan Fraser and more.
Watkins started like a train this term with four goals in his first six games and has looked a Premier League player in waiting.
PA:Press Association Ex-West Ham striker Dean Ashton wants Gareth Southgate to dip into the Championship talent pool[/caption]
He will now have to cope with the loss of gaffer Smith to Villa but already has a host of admirers.
Whether they include Gareth Southgate remains to be seen – but given his call-up of Mount, you would be shocked if Watkins was not on his radar.
Ex-England striker Dean Ashton urged the Three Lions chief to take a closer look at the Championship and the 22-year-old in particular when analysing for EFL on Quest earlier this term.
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The former West Ham star said: “Absolutely the England manager should be looking at players in the Championship, especially of the quality of Ollie Watkins who’s only going to improve.
“I think that would give lots of players in the Championship a boost if they knew the England manager was watching.”
We know Southgate IS watching, to Mount’s benefit. It is up to Watkins now to catch his eye.