Football News

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins is the Premier League’s most complete forward – Ally McCoist

By Harry Edwards

Published: 11:00, 24 April 2024

Former Scotland and Rangers striker Ally McCoist spoke to Squawka about Steve Clarke’s side ahead of Euro 2024.

McCoist revealed the Scotland players he is most excited to see play and gave his early prediction for the opening game against Euro 2024 hosts Germany.

He also looked at Arsenal’s Champions League aspirations, predicted a winner for this season’s tournament and named Ollie Watkins the most complete forward in the Premier League right now.

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You commentated as Bayern Munich knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League last week. How far are Arsenal off being genuine Champions League contenders?

I don’t think they’re far at all, honestly. I’ll just talk to you specifically about that particular game. In the first game, I didn’t think there was anything between the sides, I genuinely didn’t. First half, second half, nothing between the sides. I thought the first half of the second game in Munich, I didn’t think there was an awful lot between the sides. But I thought the second half of the second game, in Munich, I thought Bayern were better. I thought they created the better chances and probably on that 45 minutes deserved to get through.

But we’re talking about Bayern Munich here, they are one of the top sides in the world and have been, we can argue whether they’re as strong as they were five, 10 years ago, that’s up for debate. The fact of the matter is, they’re still an excellent, excellent team and a big club, and Arsenal more than competed with them. So would it be a massive surprise if Bayern beat Real Madrid in the semi? It might be a little surprise, but it wouldn’t be a massive surprise.

So I think Arsenal have come an enormous way under Arteta in the last couple of years or so. But like a lot of the new sides, and young sides, winning the first kind of trophy – I know he won the FA Cup a while back, but getting over the line in the league or getting over the line in the Champions League is a massive, massive thing to do and it can be very, very difficult. Clearly it’s very important. But as an answer to your question, I don’t think they’re far away at all.

Who are you backing to win the Champions League?

I think it’s wide open. I actually put a couple of pounds on Real Madrid about two or three months ago. I just think sometimes experience [is key]. You talk about [Manchester] City domestically in the league, the experience they’ve got. But then Liverpool and Arsenal, City have been over the distance, they’ve run the race before. Everybody says that and I think Real Madrid are like that.

Clearly Bayern Munich are as well. PSG and Dortmund, not so much. So I’m actually just going for the experience. It might sound like a cop-out and an easy answer, but I just think Real Madrid, with the experience. They got a good result at the weekend, a fantastic result against City followed up with a great one against Barcelona. They look to me as if they’re just peaking at the right time.

Things are close at the top of the Scottish Premiership table. Who are you backing to take the title this season?

I’ve got my Rangers hat on, that will be no surprise to you. Listen, Celtic are favourites, no doubt about it.

Rangers’ recent form in the league has been poor, I can’t lie to you. I saw them against Motherwell at home, Motherwell beat them. I saw them against Ross County, Ross County beat them. Dropped points against Dundee, dropped points against Celtic. I think they’ve only picked up five points out of 15 and that’s miles off league-winning form. And for that reason, Celtic are understandably the favourites.

I’ve let my heart rule by head, and I do think Rangers are not out of it. They have to win at Celtic Park — it’s as simple as that. You’ve got to go to Celtic Park and win. Kind of like down here, there’ll be one or two twists and turns, of that I have no doubt. Do you think Liverpool, Arsenal and City will go all the way undefeated? No, I don’t think they will. And I’m not sure Rangers and Celtic will as well. Because Kilmarnock can take points off both of them, Kilmarnock are a very, very good side. Hearts, likewise. So there’ll be twists and turns. Celtic, heavy favourites, but I’ve not everything crossed!

We’re less than two months away from Euro 2024. Who is the Scottish player you’re most excited to see at the tournament this summer?

Well I’d love to see two. I want to see Billy Gilmour. Billy Gilmour, I think, is a terrific footballer, I really do. And I hope he has a magical tournament. I think he’s one of these players that captures the imagination of the Scottish fans, the Tartan Army. He’s a terrific wee footballer, good on the ball.

The one that I am really looking forward to seeing is John McGinn. I think John McGinn is a player who’s capable of starring in any arena, in any competition, I genuinely do. I think with his goal threat, I think he’s incredibly industrious. I think he epitomises Scottish spirit, so I’d love to see John do well.

Obviously, defensively we’re going to have to be tight and help [Andrew] Robertson and [Kieran] Tierney. [Nathan] Patterson looks to be struggling a little bit. That would be a blow.

My concern is have we got enough goals up front; I’m not so sure. You can’t question Che Adams’ and Lyndon Dykes’ work rate and work ethic. But I have to be honest, I think we’re going to have to score goals from the middle of the park. And we’ve got that. Guys like McGinn and certainly (Scott) McTominay have been a revelation in terms of the way that they’ve played, and their goals. So I’m looking forward to seeing John McGinn.

How far do you think Scotland can go at the Euros?

Without getting carried away, I think we can get out of the group. I really, really do. And as you’re probably aware, we’ve never done it before which is absolutely remarkable, a remarkable statistic. But there are top two, and I think four third places, so come on. Surely, surely this is a competition that we’re going to get out of the group.

Germany, obviously, are favourites to win the group. But Hungary and Switzerland? Why not? Why can’t we compete against those? I think we can, that’s for sure.

Any early predictions for the Germany game?

I think we can get something against them. I was a little bit more confident before Germany’s two friendlies against France and the Netherlands. But I watched them. I thought they were terrific, particularly the France game they were terrific. But hey, the one thing that Scots are top of is the optimism league and I’m going for a 1-1 draw.

Who would you say is the most complete forward in the Premier League right now?

Most complete forward right now? On current form, you’d probably say Ollie Watkins. His form’s been exceptional. Erling Haaland looks as though his form’s dipped a little bit, which is understandable.

I’m talking about out-and-out goalscorers. Guys like (Phil) Foden have been tremendous, Cole Palmer absolutely out of this world. But if you talk about centre forwards, only centre forwards, it’s Watkins. Right now, immediately as we speak, confirmed, is probably ahead of (Ivan) Toney and Haaland for me. Maybe a month ago I might have had Ivan Toney ahead of him in Gareth (Southgate)’s thoughts for the Euros if he’s only taking two.

If he takes three, Watkins and Toney will probably go. But I think it’s flipped now. I think Toney’s form has got him second right now, I really do.

Ally McCoist was speaking to Squawka on behalf of talkSPORT BET.