Express & Star

Ex-striker sounds call for Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins amid England's Euro struggles

Jermain Defoe wants to see "dynamic" Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins given his England chance at Euro 2024.


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Although England progressed through to the knockout stage as winners of Group C, Gareth Southgate's squad have yet to spark after successive draws following a hard-earned 1-0 win over Serbia.

With Kobbie Mainoo, Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon all having impressed when coming off the bench during the second half of the stalemate against Slovenia on Tuesday night, Southgate appears to be weighing up his options ahead of Sunday's last-16 tie against Slovakia in Gelsenkirchen.

Aston Villa striker Watkins got some minutes under his belt when replacing captain Harry Kane during the closing stages of the 1-1 draw against Denmark in Frankfurt.

Former Tottenham and Sunderland forward Defoe, 41, who was part of the England squad at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and again at Euro 2012, believes Watkins could bring something different to England's attack.

Watkins, 28, scored 19 Premier League goals last season and contributed 13 assists to help Villa finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League.

"When Ollie Watkins came on (against Denmark), he looked really sharp," Defoe told the PA news agency.

"He is someone who can get us up the pitch because he is so dynamic. He runs in behind, the ball doesn't only come to his feet.

"I would love to see see him involved a little bit more because Harry Kane can drop into that 10 position, to roam and do his stuff.

"Harry is such a world-class finisher and it is almost like he can play in two positions, having almost mastered the number nine position as a focal point and can then also play in at number 10 because his passing rate is one of the best."

Defoe, who scored 20 goals in 57 international appearances, knows from his own experiences how tough it can be watching from the bench, but feels keeping a positive mindset is crucial.

"You have to be ready - and that starts with training. You have to be sharp and keep yourself fit," said Defoe, who is supporting the McDonald's Fun Football programme which provides free, inclusive football coaching for children aged five to 11 across more than 1,500 locations in the UK.

"I have been there. When I went to South Africa (for the World Cup), I always thought 'okay, I could be called upon at any moment', so even if that means I have to do a little bit extra after training maybe a bit more finishing.

"I would approach every training session like I was a starter, so I was on it every day.

"I thought to myself: 'if I am called upon and I am a little bit off it, then that is your chance gone. You are at a major tournament, you may never in another one'.

"When you are sitting on a bench, you are watching the game and thinking: 'where can I come on and make an impact?

"I would have been sitting there thinking: 'all I need is about 10 or 15 minutes - and then anything in and around the box and I get a chance of half a yard, then I am just going to get my shots off, because I have been doing it in training'."

:: Former England international Jermain Defoe is celebrating McDonald's Fun Football offering 500,000 hours of free coaching sessions to ensure every child can play football in 2024. Sign up at