By Harry Sykes
Leeds are pushing hard to sign Exeter wide forward Ollie Watkins following his dramatic development over the last 18 months, according to a reliable journalist.
The Yorkshire giants have been strongly linked to Watkins, 21, in recent weeks and their interest would surely have intensified following his play-offs heroics on Thursday night.
The attacker who has taken League Two by storm this season scored two of Exeter’s goals in their 3-2 win over Carlisle to secure a place in Sunday’s play-offs final at Wembley.
The Bristol Post claim Championship big hitters Leeds, Aston Villa and Norwich are all keeping close tabs on the youngster, who was named the EFL Young Player of the Year.
Exeter City reporter David Byrom, who has been watching the player all season for Devon Live, has given the lowdown on Watkins for the Bristol Post.
“Ollie Watkins isn’t quite a striker, he’s not quite a winger and he’s not quite a central midfielder but he’s adaptable enough that he can comfortably play in all three positions,”Byrom said. “He is a little bit of a late bloomer in terms of young prospects but that’s because he’s been superbly managed by Exeter City – shielded from the limelight and given time to develop.
“When he first broke onto the scene around 18 months ago, he was a skilful player with pace and trickery. He has kept those attributes but has worked incredibly hard in the gym to work on his athleticism too, to the point he is now a little reminiscent of Gareth Bale when he gets into full flight.
“This has often allowed him to make runs from deep when City have been on the counter-attack, often to devastating effect.”
Watkins is expected to be at the centre of a flurry of transfer activity in the coming weeks as the possibility grows that he will leave Exeter this summer, irrespective of whether they achieve their promotion dream.
The versatile Exeter academy product, who can play out wide or as the spearhead of the attack, has scored 16 goals and supplied 13 assists from 51 matches in all competitions this season, with 15 of those goals coming in league and play-offs matches.
Leeds are likely to be in the market for at least one forward this summer as a lack of goals in the side ultimately cost them in their push for promotion.
Garry Monk’s side were too reliant on 27-goal Championship leading scorer Chris Wood and had very few other sources of goals.
In other Leeds United transfer news, the club are in a three-horse race to sign a top-flight captain who is desperate to make a move to the Championship big hitters.