How Ollie Watkins became England's Euro 2024  hero thanks to his devoted soul-singing mother who drove him to games and training between gigs (and told Southgate to get him on the f***ing pitch!)

Less than ten years ago today, Ollie Watkins was playing for Weston-super-Mare in front of a few hundred fans.

Today he is on a crest of a wave – England’s hero who scored on 89 minutes and 59 seconds to send the Three Lions into its first major final on foreign soil in its history.

Last night in Dortmund, after getting the man of the match award, he embraced the two most important women in his life in the stands.

The 28-year-old kissed his interior designer partner Ellie Alderson before hugging his mother Delsi-May, who brought up him and his four siblings alone and paid the bills by performing as a soul singer at night.

Delsi-May, who uses the stage name Ruby Washington, is billed as one of the UK’s finest soul singers. Her son can also belt out a tune – singing Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much when he joined Aston Villa.

And her handsome son, who earns £130,000-a-week at Aston Villa remains down to earth. He has been seen pushing his two children around Sainsbury’s on his days off and says he would much rather spend time with his family than be out partying.

Before the game with Holland, Delsi-May was filmed on stage venting at Gareth Southgate to finally let her son ‘come on the f***ing pitch’ after a lack of minutes at Euro 2024, with Ivan Toney getting more time in previous games.

And she is very proud of her son: ‘Oliver is a man of very few words. We’ve got a family group chat, and he never brags or anything, we literally have to draw everything out of him. He’s so humble and I love that about him. He’s quite nonchalant about the fact that he’s doing something he loves. He assumes it’s the norm, but it’s not. I’m immensely proud’.

Down to earth Devon-born star Ollie Watkins goes wild after smashing home the winner against Holland last night

Ollie's mother Delsi-May, a single mum soul singer who brought up five children, holds her son by the face. She told him he would play for England one day

Ollie’s mother Delsi-May, a single mum soul singer who brought up five children, holds her son by the face. She told him he would play for England one day

Ollie and his mum Delsi-May, known as Ruby Washington on stage. She says she loves how down to earth her son is - and insists on calling him Oliver

Ollie and his mum Delsi-May, known as Ruby Washington on stage. She says she loves how down to earth her son is – and insists on calling him Oliver

Ollie Watkins kisses partner Ellie Alderson following the UEFA Euro 2024, semi-final match at the BVB Stadion Dortmund in Dortmund

Ollie Watkins kisses partner Ellie Alderson following the UEFA Euro 2024, semi-final match at the BVB Stadion Dortmund in Dortmund

Ollie and Ollie have two young children together

Ollie and Ollie have two young children together

Ollie's mum was filmed this week saying ahead of the game: 'Let Ollie come on the f***ing pitch'

Ollie’s mum was filmed this week saying ahead of the game: ‘Let Ollie come on the f***ing pitch’

When she wasn’t dropping OIiver, as she insists on calling him, at training before racing across the West Country to Minehead or Newquay perform – Delsi-May, who goes under the stage name Ruby Washington, would sometimes have to have all five of her children backstage because she had no-one to sit with them at home near Torquay.

Last night her son entered England folklore.

But it could have been very different for the Aston Villa star, 28, who was initially rejected by his local club Exeter City as a child because he ‘wasn’t ready’ for academy football.

The football mad youngster, backed by his soul singer mother never gave in and is reaping the rewards of his determination.

Ollie was brought up by single parent Delsi-May Watkins in the quiet town of Newton Abbott in Devon, close to Dartmoor.

His mother made money from singing, juggling bringing up her four sons and daughter with her life on stage.

Last year she described how her footballer son was kicking balls as soon as he could walk – and was so obsessed with the game that he collected footballs, at least 20 of them in their small back garden. 

She said: ‘We used to take the kids out, and there was a little machine where you put a 2p in, and a little rubber ball fell out’.

Ollie's crowning moment as he smashed the ball home on 89.59 - and won the game fo his country

Ollie’s crowning moment as he smashed the ball home on 89.59 – and won the game fo his country 

Less than ten years ago he was playing for Weston-super-Mare in non-league football

Less than ten years ago he was playing for Weston-super-Mare in non-league football

‘He’d stand there and you’d drop it, and he’d kick it. He never used to miss. He was only nine months old’.

But he didn’t play for a team until he was in year 2 in primary school – but was quickly picked up.  

Ollie said recently: ‘I was always good at football as a young kid but I didn’t have a team or anything like that. Then when I was about seven or eight, my friend came over to my house and he was going to training that evening and just said, ‘oh, why don’t you come?’

‘So I went along and I ended up joining that team, Newton Town, because I really liked it – it was probably one of the best things I have ever done.

‘The team was local to where I grew up in Newton Abbot in Devon and I then got scouted by Exeter City maybe only a year later, so it all kicked on quite quickly.

‘I didn’t get through initially though. Because I was so used to playing with my friends and it not being too serious, when I went on trial, I found I was as good as all the other players but I just couldn’t really concentrate in the right way’.

Ollie, his brothers Richie, Dale and Jordan — and sister Charlotte – were often taken to his mum’s shows.

She told The Times: ‘I had to bomb it over to school, bring them back, get them something to eat, get them in the car, bomb it over to Exeter during rush hour, then make sure I got back in time for me to get to work. 

‘Sometimes I was working locally, sometimes I wasn’t. If I was doing theatre in Babbacombe [Torquay] that was fine. If I was in Cornwall or somewhere, MJ’s dad used to pick them up and take them home.’

The path from non-league to international stardom was a bumpy one – he initially didn’t make it due to problems with his concentration.

But he showed no signs of this as he smashed home an incredible goal last night – sending millions of England fans wild back home and 40,000 of them in Dortmund. 

Watkins is a product of Exeter City’s academy – a club which is about 20 miles from where he was born and grew up in Newton Abbot, Devon.

‘I joined [Exeter] at U9s,’ Matt Jay, who has come through the Grecians’ ranks to become their star striker and remains Watkins’ closest friend said.

‘I think the story is that Ollie didn’t make it [was rejected] that year, but came back the next.

‘You could tell he had something, but people develop at different rates. Exeter’s academy was all about technical ability. I’m not saying that Ollie wasn’t blessed with that, but he wasn’t the best player there, for sure. He was very fast but he was a late developer.’

Ollie Watkins' 'proud' girlfriend Ellie Alderson, 28, took to her Instagram to share a sweet tribute to her childhood sweetheart after his team's victory yesterday

Ollie Watkins’ ‘proud’ girlfriend Ellie Alderson, 28, took to her Instagram to share a sweet tribute to her childhood sweetheart after his team’s victory yesterday

Sharing a wholesome snap of the pair holding hands and beaming from the stands Ellie wrote: 'You got your moment and you took it!!!!! I am soooo proud of you'

Sharing a wholesome snap of the pair holding hands and beaming from the stands Ellie wrote: ‘You got your moment and you took it!!!!! I am soooo proud of you’

Watkins is in a long-term relationship with Ellie, whom he first got together with in 2018. They welcomed their second child last April

Watkins is in a long-term relationship with Ellie, whom he first got together with in 2018. They welcomed their second child last April

Newborn: Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and his girlfriend Ellie Alderson welcomed their second child together last spring

Newborn: Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and his girlfriend Ellie Alderson welcomed their second child together last spring

And blossom he truly did. He scored 30 goals for the U18s as they won the League Three South-West Division of the Professional U18 Development League in 2013-14. They pipped Bristol Rovers U18s by better goal difference of six – highlighting the significance of Watkins’ goalscoring ability.

His prowess there saw him rewarded with a two-year professional contract in April 2014 and he soon given his first taste of first-team football when he was named on Exeter’s bench for their season-finale against Hartlepool United.

Leading 2-0 at Hartlepool, Watkins came on as a 77th-minute substitute to cap a memorable campaign for the then-teenager.

The following term saw Watkins drop down two divisions to Weston-super-Mare as he sought regular first-team football. Initially joining on a one-month loan alongside Jay, the pair quickly endeared themselves to the non-league outfit.

‘He came in with Matty Jay and we were all sharing lifts together,’ Weston midfielder Jacob Cane told Bristol Live.

‘Ollie got straight in and bonded with the lads, he hit the ground running, though there were a couple of games he started on the bench and he had to play for his spot.

‘He settled in really well. We had a really good group of funny lads and everyone got on really well and had a laugh, so it was probably the perfect group for him to go into for his first experience of a loan.’

He returned to Exeter and kept banging in the goals.

Arsenal fan OIlie said at the time his teammates kept him grounded.

‘Apparently there’s this rule for away games that the youngest lad on the coach makes the coffees, so that’s me – always me’, he said.

A move to Brentford came next where his mother told him when he signed: ‘You’re going to play for England’.

And then on to Aston Villa three years ago – scoring 59 goals in 146 games.

Ollie Watkins is in a long-term relationship with Ellie Alderson.

They first got together with in 2018 when she was working as an interior designer.

They welcomed their second child last April.

Gorgeous Ellie has an identical twin sister Sofia, and is originally from West Berkshire, where the sisters grew up with their mother and brother.

She’s thrifty and often sells her clothes on Depop as well as working as an interior designer.

Ellie’s Twitter account is full of sweet messages to her beau, including her often saying she’s ‘so proud’ of him.

But her partner stays off social media himself – seeing it as a distraction. 

Ollie admits himself he has never pictured himself playing at a major tournament for England – especially when, as a teenager learning his trade as a striker, he was sent on loan to English sixth-tier club Weston-super-Mare in 2015.

So imagine what went through Watkins’ mind when he saw his stoppage-time shot fly past Netherlands goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen and into the bottom corner to earn England a place in the European Championship final?

‘I don’t think I’ve hit a ball that sweet before,’ Watkins said after England’s 2-1 victory over the Dutch in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Suddenly, Watkins is the toast of England, an improbable turnaround in fortunes for a striker who had played 24 minutes at Euro 2024 – as a substitute in the group stage against Denmark – before replacing captain Harry Kane in the 80th minute for the biggest moment of his career.

Being an understudy for Kane, England’s all-time leading scorer with 66 goals, is a tough business. Minutes are scarce – Kane typically plays the full game – so every opportunity has to be grasped.

Watkins did just that with a goal that fans of the Premier League have seen time and again in his games playing for Aston Villa.

Darting behind the Dutch defense in a manner that is beyond Kane these days, Watkins controlled a pass from Cole Palmer with his back to goal then, in one movement, swiveled and fired a low shot through the legs of Netherlands defender Stefan De Vrij and past Verbruggen from a narrow angle.

‘That’s my bread and butter – running in behind, causing trouble,’ Watkins said.

‘I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to this point,’ said Watkins, who was tied as the fourth top scorer in the Premier League this season with 19 goals. ‘It’s not just this season, it’s cumulative.

‘I’ve done a lot of hard work and I’m going to enjoy every moment.’

That was evident as Watkins was engulfed by joyous teammates on the field at Westfalenstadion after his goal, his fourth for England. Two of them came against San Marino, the world’s lowest-ranked team.

‘It was slow motion when I was running to the boys and celebrating… I didn’t want to leave the pitch,’ he said.

‘I’ve had a few messages from my friends saying, `Be patient, you’re going to get an opportunity.’ When I’ve been on the bench, I’ve definitely said to (backup goalkeeper) Dean Henderson, `I can make a difference today, I need to get on that pitch.’ 

‘Obviously I’ve taken my chance when I’ve got it and I’ve scored and now we’re in the final.’



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