A family man with a superstar mother: Ollie Watkins, the man behind that goal

Ollie Watkins kisses girlfriend Ellie Alderson (PA)
Ollie Watkins kisses girlfriend Ellie Alderson (PA)

It was the 89th minute of England’s Euro semi-final match against the Netherlands.

After a blistering first half which saw the Netherlands take the lead with an early goal, before Harry Kane equalised with a penalty, the pace of play had slowed. The Dutch team had begun to dominate, and extra-time was beckoning. Pub-goers across the country were settling in for another 30 minutes of play, ready to buy another drink. There were whispers of penalties.

And then, out of nowhere, 28-year-old Ollie Watkins, who had been subbed on seven minutes before, took a pass from Cole Palmer. Holding off Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij, he made an effortless sharp turn before whalloping an angled shot into the far corner of the net. The clock showed 89:59.

Watkins after he scored his 90th minute goal against the Netherlands (REUTERS)
Watkins after he scored his 90th minute goal against the Netherlands (REUTERS)

What followed was perhaps the most endearing moment of all. Where most footballers have a choreographed post-goal celebration ready to unveil, the country watched as Watkins instead sprinted across the pitch wild-eyed, in complete and overwhelming disbelief as the realisation that he had put his team into the Euro final began to dawn on him.

“I’ve been waiting for that moment for weeks,” Watkins said in an interview with ITV after the match. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today. I’m delighted.

Watkins celebrates England’s victory over the Netherlands (The FA via Getty Images)
Watkins celebrates England’s victory over the Netherlands (The FA via Getty Images)

“I swear on my life, my kids’ lives, I said to Cole Palmer that he’s going to set me up today and I’m going to score. It’s the best feeling ever.”

“I’m lost for words, really,” he continued. “When you score there are emotions that come through your body but this is a different feeling. It was slow motion when I was running over to the boys and celebrating.

In a tournament of last minute wonders from England, here was another one. Watkins had played just 20 minutes for England before he was brought on by Southgate in the 81st minute, earning him the nickname “super sub”.

The Devon-born attacker, who became Aston Villa's most expensive purchase back in 2020, is perhaps one of the lesser-known faces of the England squad. Compared to many of his name-brand teammates, Watkins has kept a low profile, steadily grafting behind the scenes.

From his superstar singer mum, to his two adorable young children, here’s everything you need to know about Ollie Watkins, the man behind the goal.

A Devon boy with a superstar singer mother

Ollie Watkins celebrates with mother Delsi-May Watkins in the stands following the UEFA Euro 2024, semi-final (PA)
Ollie Watkins celebrates with mother Delsi-May Watkins in the stands following the UEFA Euro 2024, semi-final (PA)

Growing up in the seaside town of Torquay in Devon with three brothers, Richie, Dale and Jordan, sister Charlotte and single mother Delsi-May, Watkins has always, according to his mother, been “football mad”. Like many of his England teammates, Watkins’ incredible rise to success was helped by starting the game at an early age – in his case, at just nine months old.

“We used to take the kids out, and there was a little machine where you put a 2p in, and a little rubber ball fell out,” Delsi-May said in an interview with the Times. “He’d stand there and you’d drop it, and he’d kick it. He never used to miss. He was only nine months old.

“And he never wavered from saying, whenever I asked him what he wanted to do when he was older, ‘I want to be a professional footballer.’ He used to do a bit of skateboarding but that didn’t last long. He used to do BMX-ing but that didn’t last long either. And every time he went out, he used to come back with a blinking football. I’ve got a photograph somewhere of about 20-odd footballs that Oliver collected out playing.”

A boyhood Arsenal supporter, he attended South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, after joining Exeter’s U11 academy.

Despite having the bug for sport at a young age, if Watkins had followed in the footsteps of his mother, he could have lived a life in the spotlight for an entirely different reason.

Delsi has been a professional singer since she was 18, and is well-known around south Devon. Going by the stage name Ruby Washington, she performs on cruise ships around the world, theatres, holiday parks, clubs and hotels. Watkins was exposed to soul music throughout his childhood, with records like Sammy Davis Jr, Erykah Badu and Whitney Houston blaring in the family home.

As a single parent, Delsi often had to bring her children along to her shows. When Watkins began training at Exeter’s academy, it became difficult to juggle her work with taking him to practice.

Watkins grew up in Torquay, Devon (Bradley Collyer/PA Wire)
Watkins grew up in Torquay, Devon (Bradley Collyer/PA Wire)

“I had to bomb it over to school, bring them back, get them something to eat, get them in the car, bomb it over to Exeter during rush hour, then make sure I got back in time for me to get to work,” she told the Times. “Sometimes I was working locally, sometimes I wasn’t. If I was doing theatre in Babbacombe [Torquay] that was fine. If I was in Cornwall or somewhere, MJ’s dad used to pick them up and take them home.”

His mother’s career perhaps explains Watkins’ initiation song at Aston Villa. When he arrived at the club in 2020, he stood on a chair, clutching a water bottle as a microphone and sang a word-perfect rendition of Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much.

Delsi still lives in Devon, and was cleaning her car when Watkins called to tell her he had been called up to the England team for the first time. “I’m glad he did when I was in the car, because I let out the biggest scream,” she told the Times. “If I’d have let that out in the street people would have said, ‘Find that woman a mental hospital!’ I still can’t believe it. I’m immensely proud.”

“I thought he was pulling my leg," she went on to say in an interview with Torbay today. "I am still in shock. He has been focussed on what he wants to be. He takes life in his stride and does not get flustered. But he remains humble.”

‘The fame…if it does come, I’m not bothered’ – keeping under the radar


Compared to many of his England teammates who have seen themselves becoming mini-celebrities during international tournaments, Watkins has preferred to keep somewhat of a lower profile.

He doesn’t have Twitter, and his 674,000 followers on Instagram (which will certainly rise after his performance on Wednesday) are dwarfed by teammates like Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane, who have online audiences of 34.5 million and 17.1 million respectively.

“I’m content with where I am,” Watkins told the Independent last year. “The fame, the followers on Instagram – if it does come, it does. If it doesn’t, I’m not bothered really.”

An expert at his agency encouraged Watkins to use social media to raise his status, but it’s not something he feels particularly interested in. “I wouldn’t want to put anything out there that’s not authentic and not myself,” he said. “You see how much money you can make on Instagram. But my saying has always been just be good at football and the rest will take care of itself. If I’m scoring 30 goals a year and someone wants to do a sponsorship deal with me then they are going to want to do it because I’m doing well on the pitch.”

He is also aware of the downsides that come with too much exposure, which he began to experience when he was signed by Aston Villa.

“I used to just go and shop in Sainsbury’s, normal, and I came to try and do it at Villa and I couldn’t,” he said. “I had my earphones in and people took two looks and went, ‘Is that him?’. Once one person asks for a photo, then maybe it’s two or three, and then it’s hard to do shopping... I came home and I was fuming. I said to my missus, I’m never going out again. And since then I don’t do the shopping.”

Rather than validation from social media, what means the most to Watkins is his family. “I did a shoot that was in M&S, My [two-year-old] daughter saw it and says ‘Daddy’ and it makes me proud,” he told the Times.

“Oliver is a man of very few words,” his mother told the Times. “We’ve got a family group chat, and he never brags or anything, we literally have to draw everything out of him. He’s so humble and I love that about him. He’s quite nonchalant about the fact that he’s doing something he loves. He assumes it’s the norm, but it’s not. I’m immensely proud.”

“I wouldn’t say I was the loudest in the room,” he added. “It definitely takes me a while to warm up. I keep myself to myself.”

A family man – his girlfriend and two children

After the final whistle on Wednesday, Watkins was seen making a beeline for the stands, where his girlfriend Ellie Alderson was watching on in admiration, and they were snapped sharing a sweet hug and kiss.

Watkins has been dating the Berkshire-born interior designer since 2018, but they have kept their relationship largely out of the spotlight, and have never spoken publicly about how they met.

However, the two have shared photos of one another on Instagram – including after England’s semi-final, when Alderson posted a heartfelt message to Watkins on Instagram story, writing: "You deserve it!" Alderson has also shared snippets of her life after graduating from university with a diploma in interior design.

In 2020, the same year that he moved to Villa, the pair welcomed their first child, a daughter named Amara May Watkins. And last year, the couple welcomed their second child, a son. Sharing the news, Ollie took to Instagram writing: "Our little man is here. Truly blessed! Marley Watkins. 17.4.23," alongside a blue heart emoji. Ollie shared various photos of his son, including a sweet picture taken moments after Amara met her little brother.

It is clear that Watkins is a family man – he has been seen pushing his two children around Sainsbury's on his days off, and has said he would much rather spend time with his family than be out partying. Let’s hope he can continue to make them proud on Sunday night.