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Eyebrows will be raised at the fee but there is no doubting the talent of the player: Ollie Watkins is about as sure a bet as there is in the Championship. It was a blistering season for the Brentford forward, who is quick, skilful, athletic, intelligent and a scorer of all manner of goals. The 24-year-old ticks most boxes in a modern forward — apart from top-flight experience, hence those questions about that hefty £28 million fee.
It was the £20 million sale of Neal Maupay to Brighton & Hove Albion last summer that prompted a shift into a central role, which neither Watkins nor Brentford could have envisaged being so successful. The pace and trickery to terrify defenders was always there but in the past 12 months Watkins has also shown the knack of finding a yard of space inside the penalty box, of being in the right place at the right time consistently.
Watkins will be under pressure to deliver goals in the Premier League
He uses his frame well to link play with his back to goal, but Watkins is at his most dangerous playing on the defender’s shoulder, splitting the opposition’s back line with clever, incisive runs.
And he can finish. Of his 26 goals last season, 11 were scored with his right foot, seven with his left and eight with his head. None came from the penalty spot. It helps, of course, that Watkins spearheaded the most fearsome forward line in the second tier last season, in a team filled with movement and creativity.
Chances for Villa in the Premier League will be more precious. But those who know Watkins — who spent a half-season on loan at Weston-super-Mare in the Conference South in 2014-15 — say he has the temperament to be a success in the top flight.
Brentford’s remarkable return in the transfer market, meanwhile, has now yielded almost £150 million in player sales since 2014. Exeter, whom Watkins joined as an under-11, can expect a windfall too: the 15 per cent sell-on clause inserted in their sale amounts to more than £4 million.