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Euro 2024: England’s Ollie Watkins eyes European Championship after Aston Villa rise



A move was inevitable, Smith tempted Watkins to Brentford in the summer of 2017 for £1.8m where he quickly adapted to different levels.

Watkins responded by improving his nutrition, taking meals home from the Bees’ chef, and now at Villa he has a home gym, developing an elite mindset which has made him one of the top strikers in the Premier League.

Ice baths in the early hours after European games, where he makes calls to family and friends, have become second nature.

As a result he missed just one game in the Premier League this season.

Smith, who left Brentford for Villa in 2018, made Watkins Villa’s then record signing two years later, paying £28m.

Yet it has not changed him. A family man and a hands on dad of two with partner Ellie, only the occasional game of golf distracts from the desire to improve.

A hat-trick against reigning champions Liverpool in Villa’s astonishing 7-2 win were his first Premier League goals and he finished the season with 16 – and a goalscoring England debut against San Marino.

“He would bump Jack Grealish and John McGinn in training and not worry about it. Some players would have a little bit more respect as the new player but he just wanted to improve,” said Smith.

“I remember speaking to John and Jack about him and they weren’t sure what he was going to be like but then in training they were like ‘wow, there’s a hungry lad’.”

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