Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins will soon be training with Harry Kane after his England call-up – but Tottenham may regret not making them club-mates after letting Villans sign him from Brentford
- Villa striker Ollie Watkins has already scored league 10 goals so far this season
- Tottenham were interested in signing him but he instead moved to Villa Park
- And given Spurs’ lack of strength in depth up front they could come to regret it
Ollie Watkins will soon be sharing a training pitch with Harry Kane after his first England call-up but many believe the Aston Villa striker should already be doing so at club level.
Tottenham have followed Watkins’ career ever since he was playing in League Two for Exeter, and they continued to track him as he flourished in the Championship with Brentford.
Ultimately, Villa were the ones prepared to pay £28million – rising to a possible £33m – last summer to ensure Watkins linked up again with Dean Smith, who was instrumental in bringing him to Brentford in 2017.
Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins (right) has already scored 10 Premier League goals this season
Watkins faced potential international team-mate Harry Kane in his match against Tottenham
Watkins will be delighted with his choice: he is his new club’s undisputed first-choice centre-forward, and his 12 goals – including a hat-trick in the extraordinary 7-2 win over champions Liverpool – and energetic, unselfish style have caught the eye of Gareth Southgate.
He now has a strong chance, fitness permitting, of being Kane’s deputy at Euro 2020. Yet it is mystifying that Spurs did not make a stronger push for him. He is the kind of player chairman Daniel Levy usually values highly: young, British, with manageable wages and clear potential for improvement.
During the early part of Levy’s 20-year spell at the helm, he targeted these types of players specifically: Gareth Bale, Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson and Jermain Defoe were among those to move to White Hart Lane, with varying degrees of success.
Had he been playing at that time, Watkins would surely have joined them. There are echoes of Kane in his attitude and journey. Kane is now one of the world’s best strikers but that did not seem likely during loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Leicester and Norwich.
The 25-year-old will be training alongside Spurs’ Kane (left) at the England camp this month
And Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy could regret not making them club team-mates as well
His relentlessness and unwavering self-belief ultimately sustained him, however, and when first Tim Sherwood and then Mauricio Pochettino showed faith, Kane repaid them handsomely, becoming one of the greatest players in Tottenham’s history.
Even when he has reached milestones and won individual accolades, Kane has always strived for more – and Watkins is the same. ‘Even if I’ve had the best game possible, nothing is ever perfect,’ he said. ‘I’m still looking for perfection – I know that’s not real, but it keeps me pushing for more.
‘When I join up with the England lads, I’m just going to take it in my stride, enjoy the whole camp, and live each day like it’s the last. I’m going to give it my all, and whatever happens, happens.’
Without Jack Grealish’s magic, life is always more difficult for Villa, but Watkins has not let that stop him. Even in uninspiring performances against Sheffield United and Wolves, Watkins shone, hitting the woodwork in both. He has hit the post or bar six times this season – his already creditable tally could easily be far more impressive.
Jose Mourinho has questioned the attitude of his players at times this season, yet no manager could level his accusation at Watkins. Smith describes the 25-year-old as ‘one of our most coachable players’.
Against an unfamiliar back four, Watkins would have been looking forward to this match and he was menacing early on. Yet after Carlos Vinicius gave Tottenham the lead against the run of play, the home side struggled to regain their rhythm and Watkins’ threat diminished.
Watkins’ personality means he will be hard on himself yet spending time with Kane will show him he is on the right track. Spurs may live to regret the fact they are not already club-mates.
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