England: Gareth Southgate explains surprise Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney decision for Euro 2024

England: Gareth Southgate explains surprise Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney decision for Euro 2024

England manager Gareth Southgate has explained his reasons for including both Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney in his final Euro 2024 squad.

Watkins and Toney emerged this season as the two most likely understudies to England’s captain, and all-time leading scorer, Harry Kane up front for the Three Lions, and both were subsequently included in the provisional 33-man squad.

Watkins scored 27 goals in all competitions for Aston Villa this season as he enjoyed the best campaign of his career. Toney, meanwhile, having served an eight-month ban until January, scored four Premier League goals for Brentford, netted his first in an England shirt in March, but finished the season on a 12-game goal drought.

Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney (Evening Standard)
Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney (Evening Standard)

Many expected one drop out when Southgate whittled his selection down to 26, but instead both have made the final group. Southgate was asked on Thursday whether perceptions of him as a defensive manager were why he is bringing three strikers to Germany.

He replied: “In terms of [being] attacking, we’ve scored more goals than any other generation other than Walter Winterbottom’s, so I think we have been attacking.

“The different profile of strikers is the reason for three. They all offer something different. We know Harry [Kane] is the starting guy, but Ollie and Ivan have different attributes and different strengths that we might need at any given time in a game.

“I think the way the game is now — five changes for competitive games, the demands on squads across the season — the squad is going to be tremendously important. We’ve got different options, and we’ll use them.”

Southgate continued: “I think all forward players do [need to feel confident], not just strikers: wingers. I think they [Toney and Watkins] recognise the calibre of the man ahead of them, but it is a different dynamic for them.

“At their clubs, they are the men everyone looks to, so you feel differently. They’re both very, very good players and they are here because we believe in them. At the moments that they’re needed, they will deliver. I do recognise that attacking players need to feel confident and that there is belief in them.”

Watkins has three goals in 12 caps for England, while Toney has one goal in two appearances.