Exeter starlet Ollie Watkins has had a great year winning EFL young player of the year… and now he wants a playoff final win too


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OLLIE WATKINS will cap a terrific year personally today with his first-ever visit to Wembley.

The Exeter star man has shone this season, landing the EFL Young Player of the Year gong at the league’s awards do in April.

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Ollie Watkins has lit up League 2 this year, becoming EFL young player of the year

Now he has the chance to make it extra special by inspiring the Grecians to glory against Blackpool in this afternoon’s League Two play-off final.

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And the forward, who has not even visited England’s home stadium as a fan before, insists stepping out on the hallowed turf will beat any individual accolade he has achieved this term.

Watkins, 21, told SunSport: “I haven’t ever been to Wembley before so this will be my first time going. I’m looking forward to it.

“I watched the Chelsea v Tottenham game a few weeks ago which was a good game and I’ll watch the FA Cup final. To see those games and then to play there myself is something I’ll cherish forever.

There was absolute bedlam when Exeter made it to Wembley with a last-gasp win over Carlisle

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There was absolute bedlam when Exeter made it to Wembley with a last-gasp win over Carlisle

“It’s been a good season. I scored more goals than last year so on a personal note that is quite good.

“To win that award, I definitely didn’t expect that so it was great to achieve that, along with some of the Player of the Month awards.

“But personally, getting up there and playing at Wembley will top it all off.”

Watkins is the most exciting prospect in League Two after his stellar campaign, netting 15 league goals and grabbing seven assists.

Norwich must battle Derby and Sheffield United to prise Ollie Watkins, 21, away from Exeter

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A host of Championship clubs are after hotshot Watkins

Two of those strikes came in the thrilling 3-2 semi-final second-leg victory over Carlisle, which was sealed by Jack Stacey’s 95th-minute winner.

Watkins’ hot form has not gone unnoticed, with a queue of clubs higher up the food chain monitoring his progress.

Leeds are the latest to be mooted as a possible future destination but all the attacker is focusing on right now is winning today’s showpiece and then “we’ll go from there”.

Jack Stacey celebrates his last minute winner for Exeter

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Jack Stacey celebrates his last minute winner for Exeter as they won the semi-final

For many, the pressure on such young shoulders to be the team’s creative spark would be too great.

But Watkins revealed his good mates at the club – which he has been part of since he was nine – are helping keep him energised.

The Torbay-born lad, who lives with his mum Delsie and their dog Hugo, explained: “Two of my best pals play at the club, Matt Jay and Connor Riley-Lowe. I’m with them every day.

“They look after me and buy me a lot of coffees! It takes our mind off football, especially in the weather we’ve had this week.

“They are good lads. I’ve known them since I was younger. MJ is the smaller one, we give him a bit of banter, and then Connor is a good lad who is always driving us around. I couldn’t ask for better friends.

It sparked a wild Exeter pitch invasion, and they will all be at Wembley today

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It sparked a wild Exeter pitch invasion, and they will all be at Wembley today

“I wouldn’t say there is any pressure on me. The only pressure on me is what I put on myself.

“I have high standards and always want to play to the best of my ability and help the team achieve something. That’s the only pressure.”

Watkins is a manager’s dream as his versatility means he can play across all the attacking positions, and he admits he himself does not know his best position.

Wherever he features today, the former Weston-super-Mare loanee will be the danger man targeted by Blackpool, who beat and drew with Exeter in the two league games during the regular season.

Watkins has a close relationship with dapper boss Paul Tisdale


Watkins has a close relationship with dapper boss Paul Tisdale

The playmaker insists those games have no bearing on the final, but admits he does not know whether he will find it as easy to relax in the build-up to the game as he did for the high-pressure semi-final against Carlisle.

The boyhood Arsenal fan added: “Those games don’t make a difference. It’s down to what happens on the day.

“A final to a semi-final is different, especially playing at Wembley in front of a big crowd. It’s different to playing at home to Carlisle.

“I was fine the night before the semi-final and didn’t feel nervous which I thought I would. But we’ll have to see what happens ahead of the final.”

Exeter fan almost run over after being floored by single punch from fellow supporter

Watkins has a particularly strong relationship with dapper gaffer Paul Tisdale, who gave him his debut and is good mates with fashion designer Ted Baker.

And Watkins joked that clobbering the Seasiders today could land the Exeter squad some stylish new gear should Baker be suitably impressed.

He added: “I know what the manager expects of me day in, day out and every time I step on the pitch.
“I often have a discussion with the him about Ted Baker and stuff like that.

“The boss is stylish so it would be nice if we got a few Ted Baker gifts if we get promoted so we’ll have to wait and see!”

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