Express & Star

Matt Maher: It’s far too early to say Ollie Watkins won’t make the Euro 2024 cut

If Ollie Watkins has been aware of some media coverage these past few days, he might be forgiven for starting to consider summer holiday destinations.

England's Ollie Watkins (centre) battles for the ball with Brazil's Fabricio Bruno and Andreas Pereira

A prevailing view appears the Villa striker has not only been surpassed by Ivan Toney in the battle to make England’s Euro 2024 squad but definitively beaten.

“I think he (Toney) has booked his place on the plane,” remarked former England international Jill Scott after the Brentford forward had netted his first international goal in Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw with Belgium. Her fellow pundit Joe Cole concurred, along with many others who have spoken or written on the subject since.

With two months of the season still to play and Gareth Southgate not required to name his final squad until June 8, after England will have played two warm-up matches against Bosnia and Iceland, it is an opinion which feels just a little bit premature.

That is not to say Toney did not deliver the more eye-catching moments over the international fortnight, with Watkins frustrated and starved of service having started last Friday’s 1-0 defeat to Brazil.

Yet it wasn’t as though the Villa man had a complete disaster. It was his determination to keep the ball in play which led to Jude Bellingham scoring a last-gasp equaliser against Belgium, while he also came close to setting up the Real Madrid star against Brazil with a cross which whistled across the face of goal.

Either way, making a final judgement on either Toney or Watkins on the basis of two friendly matches would be cruel and misguided.

Southgate will surely look deeper, assessing how both interact with other members of the squad, their form in training and of course their exploits at club level, where over the past seven months Watkins has hit levels rarely seen in recent years by an English striker not named Harry Kane.