Aston Villa must avoid selling Ollie Watkins amid Lee Hendrie’s transfer claim that rival clubs could look to sign him.
Hendrie has now suggested that, were someone like Jack Grealish to leave, it could spark an exodus from Villa Park, with Watkins one of the players he fears would consider a move away.
The 43-year-old told Football Transfer Tavern: “There’s been a lot of interest for certain players. I think when you look at the bigger picture of it, you know, if someone like Jack Grealish left, I think that’s when it does maybe happen where it might be that Ollie Watkins thinks, ‘well, there’s no ambition here. We’re going to have to move on; we’re going to have to go to a different football club’.
“When they’re playing well, there’s always going to be interest for players. So, yes, there’s elements that you do want to keep your best players because I feel that if Villa are going to go and push on and be a European side and possibly get into the Champions League at some stage, they’re going to have to build around these key players that they’ve got – Ollie Watkins is one of them.
“I still feel there’s more to come from him, but I do worry (about interest from top-six sides).”
Speaking earlier this season, The Athletic’s Gregg Evans waxed lyrical about the kind of transformation Villa have had thanks to Watkins’ arrival.
He said: “I really think he’s making a big difference actually, to Villa, I think that he’s given them a new dimension and his hold up play is great, he creates space for others and that’s helping the midfielders flourish.”
After the 25-year-old helped Villa to a superb 3-0 victory against Crystal Palace in December after being down to ten men, Smith raved: “I said to them at half-time in the dressing room, ‘There’s nobody I could choose out of the Premier League to lead the line with 10 men’ with Ollie Watkins. I thought he was outstanding today and the only thing missing was his goal.
“Listen, the numbers he produces in terms of his high-speed running and sprinting distances is incredible. The lads really appreciate the work he puts in.”
Watkins’ rise to becoming a bona fide Premier League star began with his performances at Brentford, with the Bees’ programme editor Chris Deacon telling The Athletic: “Ollie transformed himself into a physical specimen. We’d call him a machine because it looked like he would set himself into third gear and then cruise along at the front while everyone else was blowing.”
While transfer interest in him would be an indication of just how well the striker has done, Villa would be making an unforgivable mistake by looking to cash in on him and/or just letting him walk.
Smith’s side have improved dramatically since last season thanks to key signings like the 25-year-old, and that they’re still within a shout of European football is a testament to that.
The Villa boss would be absolutely fuming if the club decided to take the money on Watkins when they really should be strengthening the team around him.