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    5. There is no bias against Ollie Watkins, England's highest-scoring player ..


    There is no bias against Ollie Watkins, England's highest-scoring player over the past year.

    Nobody has contributed to more Premier League goals over the last year than Ollie Watkins. Photo: Reuters/Matthew Childs

    Gareth Southgate warned of the dangers of selecting players due to “recency bias” when explaining his decision to recall Ollie Watkins to the England squad, but the striker's good form is nothing recent.

    Perhaps there is something in Watkins' theory that he flies under the radar because he doesn't seek the limelight and plays for what outside Birmingham might seem like an unfashionable club in Aston Villa.

    Watkins just scored. hat-trick against Brighton as England boss Southgate made his stunning announcement, and it's equally puzzling why the 27-year-old took so long to win his first international call-up since March 2022.

    Unai Emery will celebrate his first anniversary as Villa manager later this month and since the Spaniard's arrival no English player has scored more Premier League goals than Watkins.

    Ahead of England's games against Australia and Italy, Watkins had scored 25 league goals under Emery, more than Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka (22), Callum Wilson or Marcus Rashford (19).

    Watkins It's not just outside Villa that he feels underappreciated. Some fans began to question his inclusion after he failed to score in the club's first five games of the season, prompting him to celebrate the win over Chelsea with his fingers in his ears.

    “I would say all fans are pretty fickle,” Watkins said. “I don't want to be too controversial in this interview, but I feel like as a striker, if you go a few games without scoring, people will say he's on a drought, he can't score, and then I'll score four goals in two games. and everyone will love you. It's ups and downs.”

    So was the celebration aimed at those who doubted him? “Yeah, kind of like that.”

    Watkins celebrates his first goal against Chelsea with his fingers in his ears. Photo: AP/Alastair Grant

    Watkins doesn't need to be told stats and figures to show him there's no bias in form towards the novelty that earned him a recall for England under Emery.

    “This It’s up to him [Emery],” Watkins said. “Under Steven Gerrard I didn't get the best out of my game. This is not his merit, I just fell into a rut.

    “But I feel like I took a different path and really focused on becoming a striker. I used to try to do everything, now I'm just focused, being the main person. He [Emery] had a lot of faith in me and gave me the confidence that I could go out there and perform and just focus on scoring goals and helping the team.

    “Maybe I'll stay unnoticed. They don't talk much about me in terms of profile. Yes, I know I've been working on the field since he arrived. But I remain unnoticed.”

    Asked if this was because Villa didn't get enough recognition, Watkins replied: “I don't know if it's Villa. You have players who are just likeable and quirky. It doesn't bother me too much. I just like playing football. A lot of people have told me that I need to promote my profile, but I'm happy with what I do on the field and that's all that matters to me.”

    Watkins doesn't have a public Twitter account and isn't comfortable revealing too much of himself on Instagram. He even stopped going to the weekly shops due to being recognized, so he is counting on achieving his goal of 20 goals to keep him in the national consciousness.

    “I think if I score 20 goals in end of the season, and I'm confident I'll get to that number, then people will start talking and I'll be put in a certain group of top players,” Watkins said. . “The social media element is not my number one priority at the end of the day. Football is.”

    Watkins has set himself a target of 20 goals for Villa this season. Photo: Getty Images/Neville Williams

    Watkins' reluctance to become a public figure even extended to the supermarket: “When I was in Brentford, I just went shopping at Sainsbury's.”

    “I came to try and do it at Villa but I couldn’t do it. I came home and was furious and told my wife, “I’m never leaving the house again, you’ll have to go to the store.” I haven't gone shopping since.”

    If Watkins is to reach his target of 20 goals, which he believes will secure a place in England's squad for the European Championships, he will have to do it. missing Villa's penalty after being replaced by Douglas Luiz from the spot.

    Asked whether the decision to give up the penalty was his or Emery's, Watkins said: “It was a bit of both, actually. I never really practiced penalties. I just always went up and took the ball and no one said anything if I grabbed the ball.

    “I started training at Villa and when it dawned on me I changed my run-up, then as you see The other penalty takers have the same routine. It's definitely something I need to work on because I'll have a lot more opportunities in my career.”

    Watkins signed a new long-term contract with Villa last week but has offered to do so under Gerrard. , his future at the club was less certain.

    “I came from Brentford, I scored a lot of goals and did well in my first year and then I found myself in a bit of a rut . It's hard when you're stuck in this rut, you don't know where you'll end up or what's going to happen. I didn't see my career anywhere other than at Villa, but it was difficult for me to try and get out of a rut when things weren't going well for me.”

    It's been a long time since Watkins was in his groove, and his recall to the England team had been a long time coming.

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