He’s the man defenders fear and the St James Park faithful love. And having scored in each of Exeter City’s last three games, star striker Ollie Watkins has his sights firmly set on firing the Grecians into the automatic promotion spots and up to League One.
Ladbrokes News caught up with the Devon-born dynamo to discuss everything from his strike partnership with Reuben Reid to the club’s promotion chances, and which item of clothing he’d borrow from style-conscious gaffer Paul Tisdale’s wardrobe….
Ladbrokes News: You’re enjoying a great 2017 personally, winning the League Two Player of the Month award in January, and also netting in each of your last three games. What do you put your great form right now down to?
Ollie Watkins: A large part of it is the team playing well. We had a difficult result at Hartlepool on Saturday [losing 3-1], but the side still performed at a good level, and created those chances for me. That, and a few goals I’ve scored have been a bit off the cuff, really!
LN: The last month has been a bit tricky, with one win and four draws from six games. Before that sequence, you’d taken an incredible 28 points from 10 games. Do you think Exeter can go on another run like that one?
OW: I think we’ve definitely got it in us to do that again. That run was no fluke – you can tell that by the fact it lasted 10 games. It’s inevitable that when you have a great sequence of results like that, it will come to an end sometime, and you’ll have a bit of a dip.
We’re enduring that dip right now, but we have three games coming up in the next fortnight, and that gives us the perfect opportunity to turn things around.
To be honest, our confidence has never wavered. We’re only four points off the automatic spots, so we know that if we can perform at our best in the coming days, we’ll put ourselves right up there again.
LN: You’ve had a new strike partner this season in the form of Reuben Reid. What’s he been like to play alongside? And do you feel that you guys have built a good partnership?
OW: Definitely. And I feel that partnership is getting stronger each game. We understand each other’s game, and I’ve improved from playing alongside a guy with Reuben’s experience.
We’re well-balanced as a strike partnership. Reuben’s a good target man and will hold the ball up, and bring me into play. I feel we’re linking up very well, and I’ve been able to finish off the chances when he’s played me in.
LN: Next up for you guys is the visit of Accrington Stanley. You’ve won both of the last two meetings against them by a 2-1 scoreline. Are you confident ahead of this one? And how do you think the team will set up?
OW: I’m positive about our chance of winning ahead of every game. In terms of tactics, there’s no point changing what we’ve done this season, because overall it’s worked very well. Having beaten them away from home earlier this campaign gives us a bit of an extra boost, so hopefully we’ll get the three points come Saturday!
LN: A word on your gaffer, Paul Tisdale: he’s currently the longest-serving manager in the Football League. What’s he like to play and train for? And do you feel he’s helped you develop your game?
OW: He’s a great manager, which is why he’s been in the business – and at one club – for such a long time. On a personal note, I’m very grateful to him for giving me a long run in the first team as a young player coming through.
He’s also helped me massively in terms of my game – especially my movement off-the-ball – and has been very supportive of my career and progression. He’s the kind of guy where I don’t think anyone has a bad word to say about him!
LN: He’s also known for his distinctive fashion sense. Have any of the boys in the dressing room copied his style?
OW: [*Laughs*] I wouldn’t say anyone’s copied him as such, but he’s got a nice parka jacket I wouldn’t mind having! But nobody’s come in dressed head-to-toe like the boss, no!
LN: Finally – you’re four points off the automatic promotion spots, but only two above Mansfield, who occupy eighth place right now. Is the focus at the club on aiming to get an automatic spot, or trying to gear up for the play-offs?
OW: We’re primarily focused on next game ahead, but automatic promotion is definitely the goal. We’re close enough to the top three that it’s all about trying to close that gap, instead of worrying about the sides below us.
I think it’ll be a close-run thing, and the fans can play a huge part in helping us – especially at St James Park. They’ve stuck with us and got behind us brilliantly, even during the difficult spell of results we’ve had lately, and hopefully we can reward them with a promotion!
Next up for Exeter City is the visit of Accrington, with 21/20 for the hosts to enjoy victory.
Meanwhile, there’s 5/2 for the Grecians to secure promotion from League Two this season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing