Smith urges Ollie Watkins and Ezri Konsa to aim for England call-ups

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith urges Ollie Watkins and Ezri Konsa to follow in the footsteps of Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings and aim for England call-ups after shining in Premier League

  • Dean Smith has set a challenging goal for his talented Aston Villa stars 
  • Smith says Ezri Konsa and Ollie Watkins can push for international recognition 
  • Konsa has developed into one of the most promising centre backs in the league
  • Watkins has scored 12 goals since club-record £33m move from Brentford 

Dean Smith likes to bring the best from his Aston Villa players by setting challenging goals and his latest target for his English stars is to follow Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings into Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2020.

As long as the shin problems that have kept Grealish out of the last four games are resolved soon, he is guaranteed a spot and Mings has been a regular since his impressive debut in Bulgaria in 2019.

Yet though competition for places will be ferocious, Smith demands his players aim high, and defender Ezri Konsa and forward Ollie Watkins are two he believes can push for international recognition.

Ollie Watkins has shone in front of goal since his £33million move to Aston Villa from Brentford

Ezri Konsa has developed into one of the most promising centre backs in the Premier League

Watkins has scored 12 goals since a club-record £33million move from Brentford last summer, and has also struck the woodwork seven times — including in the fourth minute of this draw against Wolves.

Konsa, who moved from Griffin Park 12 months before Watkins, has developed into one of the most promising centre backs in the league and is on the radar of Champions League clubs.

‘I’m sure there are a lot Gareth will be looking at,’ said Smith. ‘We’ve got a very British-based squad. Of the regular starting XI, six or seven are English. I’m sure Gareth has been impressed with the season we’ve had. Konsa, Matt Target, Watkins, all have an opportunity to show Gareth they are there if he needs them.

‘Ollie has been a fantastic signing and he’ll keep getting better. Ezri is a top player. He’s not anywhere near his ceiling yet. We’ve always believed he is capable of getting into the international scene.’

Dean Smith has high hopes for his stars and wants them to push for international recognition

Smith has even compared Konsa, 23, to Paul McGrath, one of Villa’s finest ever defenders, though he added that he must be consistent ‘for three or four years’ to achieve McGrath’s standards. 

Meanwhile on Saturday, Smith’s team were close to losing had it not been for an astonishing miss.

On the ground where Liverpool’s Ronny Rosenthal hit the bar with an open goal 29 years ago, Wolves’ Romain Saiss managed to steer the ball over the top from a yard.

Wolves’ failure to repeat the form of the last two campaigns has mitigating factors: their small squad are exhausted after only 34 days’ break between seasons, and there have been injuries, primarily to their best player, Raul Jimenez. The Mexican hit 27 in 55 matches last term. This season, Wolves’ top scorers are Pedro Neto and Ruben Neves, with five each.

Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings have both established themselves as England players

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