By Villa News Speaking to Dan Bardell

17th Oct, 2023 | 8:30pm

Dan Bardell: Ollie Watkins 'never' England starter despite 'excellent' Aston Villa form

We’re delighted to welcome Sky Sports journalist Dan Bardell as our exclusive Aston Villa columnist as each week he’ll be giving his views on the biggest talking points at the club…

Ollie Watkins will never be a starter for England despite his “excellent” form for Aston Villa, according to Dan Bardell.

Watkins started for the Three Lions against Australia on Friday (13 October), netting the game’s only goal with a second-half strike to secure victory in the friendly. However, with Harry Kane understandably occupying Gareth Southgate’s starting striker role and reclaiming his place on Tuesday (17 October) against Italy, Watkins’ international experience has been minimal.

Plenty of exceptional English strikers are vying for the second-choice role including Callum Wilson, Ivan Toney and Eddie Nketiah, so Watkins faces stiff competition.

While the “best” he can hope for is to become second-choice, Bardell claims Watkins would struggle to outrank Toney as Southgate’s backup. His prolific Aston Villa form shows he’s doing all he can to get the manager’s attention, but the number nine shirt will elude him.

Speaking exclusively to Villa News, Bardell said: “I think Watkins is in the same boat as everyone else. It’s a unique situation because every country would kill for a goalscorer like Harry Kane. He gets into any country in the world.

“The tough one for Watkins is that it goes through phases of who is the second-choice striker for England. It’s been Callum Wilson. Ivan Toney probably would be the number two striker had he not had his ban because I actually think he’s most similar to Kane.

“Watkins is battling it out with Toney and Wilson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tammy Abraham if he was fit too. Watkins has just got to keep doing what he’s doing. He can’t have done any more in the last six months. He’s having a good season so far and he’s had an excellent 12 months for Villa.

“He just needs to take his chance with England. He’s started two games and got two goals for his country – he can’t really do any more. He’s probably never going to be England’s number nine, but the best he can hope for is to come in when Kane’s not available for the odd game.”

In other Aston Villa news, Unai Emery has upset the Villa squad with a personnel decision.