Ollie Watkins says Exeter City will always have ‘a special place in his heart’, having moved away from his boyhood club to join Championship side Brentford.
The Newton Abbot youngster, who has attracted interest from a number of Championship and Premier League clubs during the past 12 months, has been sold for a club record fee although the exact amount is undisclosed at Brentford’s request.
Having scored 16 goals and made 12 assists last season, Ollie admitted he had to move away from St James Park this summer to fulfil his dream of playing football at the highest level he could for as long as he could but added that he had so much to thank the coaching staff, academy and fans at Exeter City for.
“Players always want to test themselves at the highest level they can,” said Ollie. “That is the aim. I want to play at the highest level I can for as long as I can and Brentford have given me that opportunity and I am very grateful to them for that.
“I have to be very thankful to the coaching and academy staff at Exeter as well.
“I have had so many good people around me at that club and I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me since I joined when I was 11. I have been really well looked after. I have been treated very well and Exeter will always have a very special place in my heart.”
Ollie also has a special relationship with the Exeter City supporters, who regularly chanted ‘he’s one of our own’ from the stands in his direction.
He says he owes a debt of gratitude to the supporters for that, as they always stuck by him through good times and bad, and he has urged them not to be too downhearted by his departure as he feels the current squad is more than capable of getting promoted from League Two without him.
“I will definitely look out for Exeter’s results,” he said. “I have made a lot of friends there, friends which I will have for a lifetime. And just because I won’t be playing for the same team doesn’t make the relationship I have with the people there any different.
“I’m planning to go back to Exeter as often as I can to watch some of their games, when I get time off, and hopefully the boys will go on to get promoted because they are a great bunch of lads and they are more than capable of going up.
“The fans, they treated me well through good times and some not so good times and that is big part of it. They made me feel very special.
“The supporters have a got a lot to look forward to this season. Exeter have a lot of great players. I am sure I won’t be a miss because those boys there are more than capable of getting promoted. We went very close last season. And this season, they know what they need to do and I’m 100 per cent confident they will.”