Football Fancast is embarking on a new series, in which we take a look at some of the hottest young prospects currently playing in the Championship…
Tall, quick and powerful. Brentford’s Ollie Watkins seems tailor-made for the top flight, and appears to have all the necessary tools to become one of the Premier League’s most dangerous wide forwards in years to come – for now, at least, he will have to contend with being the Championship’s most effective winger.
Watkins’ rise has not quite been meteoric, but it has been an eye-catching one. It was only in the summer of 2017 that the Bees took the plunge in signing a little-known League Two forward from Exeter, where he had just missed out on promotion after losing the play-off final to Blackpool.
Despite his side’s failure to earn promotion, the campaign was a personal triumph for Watkins as he was named the EFL Young Player of the Year, having notched 16 goals in 52 appearances.
The Englishman shows a maturity in his position that should be beyond his years. The most common irregularity of a young winger’s game is his tendency to hug the touchline for much of the 90 minutes, where he will struggle to make an impact for the majority of the game unless he is spoon-fed the ball.
What Watkins does differently, however, is ensure that he is always getting inside his full-back when not on the ball, so he can be first in line to head home or tap in a cross if the right delivery comes in, as opposed to allowing an easy clearance for the opposition defenders.
The former Weston-super-Mare loanee has plenty of time on his side at just 23 years of age, and is taking to the Championship like a duck to water with nine goals and five assists so far for Brentford this season.
Another man who has been performing superbly for the Bees this season is French striker Neal Maupay, who has hit 21 goals across all competitions so far in the current campaign and has consequently attracted interest from the Premier League – Huddersfield were keen in the January window.
Maupay has arguably had more media coverage and attention in comparison to Watkins, which is unfair on the latter seeing as he has performed just as admirably.
Crystal Palace and Bournemouth were circling around Watkins back in the summer, and one would assume that they and plenty others will be back at Griffin Park in a few months to check on his availability.