Gareth Southgate hailed Ollie Watkins’ ‘fairytale’ debut in England after the Aston Villa forward scored in a 5-0 win over San Marino in the Cup opener of the world on Thursday. Just four years ago Watkins was playing in the fourth tier of English football with Exeter. The 25-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise since then, joining Brentford in 2017 before moving to Villa last year after finishing top scorer in the league. He scored 12 times in his debut campaign with the Premier League club, winning an England first call-up and debut against the San Marino minnows at Wembley.
With four goals in England thanks to a brace from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a first international goal for James Ward-Prowse and a strike from Raheem Sterling, Watkins came on after 63 minutes.
Set up by Phil Foden’s pass, Watkins scored with his first shot in an English shirt with a cool low finish.
Watkins’ beaming face and jubilant celebrations from his teammates underscored how special this was for a player who had to fight his way to the top.
England boss Southgate acknowledged the importance of the moment, saying: “The first thing you saw was the reaction from the rest of the squad. It shows you how close they are together. what that means to him.
“He settled in very quickly with the group. He’s a really humble boy and it was good to be able to give him half an hour or so. For him, getting a goal is a fairy tale, isn’t- isn’t it? “
Watkins has already spent half a season on loan at Weston-Super-Mare outside the league, which makes him all the more grateful for his instant success with England.
“It’s amazing, it’s what I dreamed of to be honest. I’m speechless,” he said.
“It was a good trip. I just feel honored to be able to come here and put on the jersey and have the chance to play with the players I play with and even score in my debut. I couldn’t write it, I am on the moon. “
Watkins was the landmark story of a comfortable night for England, who would have won a lot more without a nice display from San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini.
San Marino’s game, Sunday’s trip to Albania and Poland’s visit to Wembley on Wednesday are all World Cup qualifiers, but they serve as vital warm-ups for the delayed Euro 2020, which begins in June. .
Southgate’s 50th game as England boss won’t be long remembered given the paucity of opposition, but he has learned some valuable lessons nonetheless.
Calvert-Lewin’s predatory finishes were instructive, while Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount and Ward-Prowse all grabbed attention in the midfield.
“I was very satisfied not only with the way we moved the ball quickly and the exchange of positions, but also with the way we pressed when we lost the ball which brought out the mentality of team for 90 minutes, ”Southgate said.
“Mason in the first half was excellent, set the tone. It’s good to see Jesse seem to be enjoying his football again, so I thought there were a lot of good things. .
“Of course he’s an opponent we should beat but I thought they were doing their job very well.”
Mount spotted Ben Chilwell’s run into the penalty area and the left-back pass was confidently converted by Ward-Prowse in the 14th minute.
Calvert-Lewin doubled England’s lead in the 21st minute as the Everton striker met Reece James’ cross with a clinical header at the far post.
Teeded by influential Mount in the 31st minute, Sterling got the third when he slipped into the penalty area for a shot that deflected Dante Carlos Rossi.
England were well in the lead but they were content with two more goals after the break.
In the 53rd minute Lingard’s cross was brought home by Calvert-Lewin and with seven minutes left Watkins broke through in the far corner.
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