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Southgate hails Watkins 'fairytale' as England rout San Marino

Published : Saturday, 27 March, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 210

England's manager Gareth Southgate gestures from the touchline during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match between England and San Marino at Wembley Stadium in London on March 25, 2021.	photo: AFP

England's manager Gareth Southgate gestures from the touchline during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match between England and San Marino at Wembley Stadium in London on March 25, 2021. photo: AFP

LONDON, MAR 26: Gareth Southgate hailed Ollie Watkins' "fairytale" England debut after the Aston Villa striker scored in a 5-0 win against San Marino in Thursday's opening World Cup qualifier.
Just four years ago, Watkins was playing in English football's fourth tier with Exeter.
The 25-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise since then, joining Brentford in 2017 before moving to Villa last year after finishing as top scorer in the Championship.
He has scored 12 times in his first campaign with the Premier League club, earning a maiden England call-up and a debut against minnows San Marino at Wembley.
With England four goals up thanks to Dominic Calvert-Lewin's brace, a first international goal for James Ward-Prowse and Raheem Sterling's strike, Watkins came on after 63 minutes.
Set up by Phil Foden's pass, Watkins scored with his first shot in an England shirt with a cool low finish.
Watkins' beaming face and the jubilant celebrations of his team-mates underlined what a special moment it was for a player who has had to fight his way to the top.
England boss Southgate recognised the significance of the moment, saying: "The first thing you saw was the reaction from the rest of the team. That shows you how together they are. They know what it means for him.
"He's settled in really quickly with the group. He's a really humble boy and it was nice to be able to give him half an hour or so. For him to get a goal is fairytale isn't it?"
Watkins once spent half a season on loan at non-league Weston-Super-Mare, making him all the more appreciative of his instant success with England.
"It's unbelievable, it's what I've dreamt about to be honest. I'm speechless," he said.
"It's been a good journey. I just feel honoured that I can come out here and pull on the shirt and get the chance to play with the players I'm playing with and even score on my debut. I couldn't write it, I'm over the moon."
Watkins was the stand-out story on a comfortable night for England, who would have won by far more if not for a fine display from San Marino keeper Elia Benedettini.
The San Marino match, Sunday's trip to Albania and Poland's visit to Wembley on Wednesday are all World Cup qualifiers, but they serve as vital warm-ups for the delayed Euro 2020, which starts in June.
Southgate's 50th game as England boss won't linger long in the memory given the paucity of the opposition, but he still learnt valuable lessons.
Calvert-Lewin's predatory finishes were instructive, while Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount and Ward-Prowse all caught the eye in midfield.    -AFP






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