The admission should probably come as no surprise from a coach who guided the Tigers to the league and cup double in the inaugural 2019-20 NIHL National season before it was cut short by the pandemic.
The Tigers finished second in the behind-closed-doors Spring Cup won by Sheffield Steeldogs earlier this year and are regarded by many as having a realistic chance of retaining at least one of their titles.
They face-off against the Knights on the back of a three-game winning streak, one which they maintained the hard way last weekend with overtime wins against both leaders Swindon Wildcats and Milton Keynes Lightning.
And although Leeds are a team searching for some consistency – their line-up hit hard in recent weeks by injury issues – Watkins, who has Sam Watkins, Finley Howells and Jack Hopkins away on duty with GB under-20s, is under no illusions about the tough night that lies ahead for his players in West Yorkshire.
“I’m reasonably happy with where we are at,” said Watkins. “We’ve let a couple of games slip we shouldn’t have, but we’re still within touching distance and very much focussed on retaining our titles if possible.
“We’re happy-ish, but you can always strive for better and improved performances.”
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It was Leeds who drew first blood this season, winning 5-2 in an explosive start to their Autumn Cup group campaign, but it is Telford who have held the upper-hand since, winning both games in a double-header weekend between the two in early November.
Watkins has first-hand experience of the quality in the Knights line-up, with Matty Davies, Sam Gospel, Sam Zajac, Brandon Whistle, Ross Kennedy and Kieran Brown all having played under him in recent years.
“We know a lot about them individually and how they work together as a team when we have faced them – they have got a lot of offensive punch,” added Watkins. “You know it is never going to be easy against Leeds – they will be very competitive, very skilled and talented and are a team that can seemingly score willingly at times.”
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