Euro 2024 comment: Ollie Watkins conjures a story for the ages to go down in England folklore

THE most famous person born in Ollie Watkins’ hometown of Torquay is celebrated writer and novelist Agatha Christie.

The story which the former conjured for England after 89 minutes and 59 seconds of Wednesday night’s dramatic Euro 2024 semi-final against the Netherlands in Dortmund was pure electrifying theatre.

That instinctive movement, that exquisite turn and that deadly finish. It didn’t need Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot to deduce its brilliance. And then the wide-eyed, disbelieving celebration.

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It was, quite simply, one of the greatest goals and one-off moments ever delivered by a player wearing the Three Lions jersey. Arguably the best ever on foreign soil. Picture-perfect, iconic.

England hero Ollie Watkins celebrates victory at the final whistle after the Three Lions' dramatic UEFA Euro 2024 semi-final match against the Netherlands at the BVB Stadion in Dortmund. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.England hero Ollie Watkins celebrates victory at the final whistle after the Three Lions' dramatic UEFA Euro 2024 semi-final match against the Netherlands at the BVB Stadion in Dortmund. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
England hero Ollie Watkins celebrates victory at the final whistle after the Three Lions' dramatic UEFA Euro 2024 semi-final match against the Netherlands at the BVB Stadion in Dortmund. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

Whatever happens in Berlin on Sunday, we’ll always have Watkins. In a mundane tournament, England have still managed to post a medley of magic moments.

Jude Bellingham’s overhead kick at the death, Bakayo Saka’s cathartic penalty and Ivan Toney’s no-look spot-kick followed by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ‘full house’ clincher against the Swiss.

But can anything trump Watkins?

While the narrative is that tournament football needs the best stars to shine, unlikely heroes have also wonderfully come to the fore in this competition before.

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Think John Jensen in Euro 1992 or Angelos Charisteas 12 yearslater.

Watkins’ splendid contribution was made all the more sweeter by his route to the top from footballing backwaters.

He started out at Exeter City and had a loan spell by the sea at non-league Weston super-Mare before starting to make his name at Brentford and then Aston Villa. From Exeter to ecstasy.

The Devonian is one of a number of England players who owe a debt of gratitude to the EFL pyramid, alongside the likes of John Stones, Harry Kane, Jordan Pickford and Kieran Trippier.

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Torquay-born, Watkins was brought up in nearby Newton Abbot, a town famous for its racecourse.

Gareth Southgate’s decision to call for Watkins in the final quarter for England’s decidedly leggy leader Kane was no gamble, in truth.

It looked astute and ultimately proved a masterstroke.

Watkins’ pace and ability to get down the sides of centre-halves was always likely to be a handy weapon so deep into such a game.

In his Premier League career to date, Watkins had mustered a hat-trick, four goals and two assists in six appearances versus Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk.

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In the event, it was Van Dijk’s central defensive team-mate Stefan de Vrij who suffered this time.

Watkins received a perceptive pass from fellow replacement Cole Palmer, held off de Vrij and swivelled beautifully before unleashing a low shot which was destined for the far corner as soon as he struck it. Glorious.

Afterwards, he said that it was a moment written in the stars. A tournament written in the stars for England per chance?

Displaying soothsaying qualities when speaking afterwards, Watkins - a player on Sheffield United’s wish-list a few years back - said: “I said to Cole at half-time that we were both going to go on the pitch and he was going to set me up.

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"I don’t think I’ve hit a ball that sweet before. Obviously it’s such a special moment as well.”

Some things are just meant to be.

For the striker, patience ultimately proved a virtue with Southgate’s message to his squad players reinforcing that very fact.

It has been a tournament so far where the best word to show up England is this. Perseverance.

Just as Watkins had to bide his time after his cameo against the Danes in the group game back on June 20 which already seems an eternity ago - enduring a certain amount of frustration in the process - so have others.

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Palmer and Ivan Toney for instance. Two late party guests with Toney announcing himself by setting up the last-16 winner versus the Slovaks before being afforded his moment from 12 yards where he excels against Switzerland.

Steadfastness too from Southgate in his support of Alexander-Arnold. Jettisoned from midfield, but not from Southgate’s plans with his decisive penalty in Dusseldorf representing a cherished moment.

Against a Spain side where it promises to be all hands to the pump, circumstances dictate that others might yet be summoned at some time in proceedings. Anthony Gordon? Adam Wharton even? England’s strength is its strength.

It will need more - much more - than that to beat Spain, in all likelihood.

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For the moment, let’s revel in Dortmund and Watkins and one of those special stories. The sort of which will hopefully continue to light up tournament football in the years and decades to come - regardless of nation.