Exclusive: Interview with Spurs’ latest debutant Harry Winks
PUBLISHED: 10:48 02 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:47 02 December 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Tottenham’s England Under-19 international Harry Winks discusses his path into Spurs’ academy, his first-team debut against Partizan Belgrade and who he models his game on.
It has been a good year for Tottenham’s academy.
Last December Nabil Bentaleb made his breakthrough into the first team and, since then, Harry Kane and Ryan Mason have become regular and increasingly important players.
All three started against Everton on Sunday and were deservedly praised for their contributions in Spurs’ 2-1 home win.
Milos Veljkovic, 19, made his first senior appearances at the end of last season, coming off the bench twice, and 21-year-old Alex Pritchard followed suit at the end of the final game of the season.
On Thursday it was Harry Winks’ turn to make his bow at White Hart Lane, replacing Paulinho in the 87th minute as Spurs secured a 1-0 home win over Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League.
“It was just the best moment of my life - an unbelievable moment, a dream come true,” said the 18-year-old. “Being a Spurs fan as well, to go out there and play any minutes is unbelievable. I’ve been at the club since I was about six years old so I’ve been here for a long time.
“I came through a local soccer camp out near Watford. It was one of those where you pay to do it during half-term.
“One of the coaches was a member of the Tottenham development squad – he was a coach there and he sent me up to the development squad at the age of six or seven.
“From there I progressed into the academy and I’ve just been there ever since. I’ve come all the way through.”
Winks seemed to be on the verge of his first-team debut last season, being named on the bench on three occasions under Tim Sherwood, who was keen to highlight the talent in the club’s academy.
The England Under-19 international midfielder ultimately had to wait for his big moment but reflects: “It was brilliant, another great experience.
“Obviously you get a little bit disappointed that you don’t come on but just the experience of travelling and actually being in the squad, that’s unbelievable.
“Being on the bench at Anfield was surreal. When you walk out and the crowd is singing You’ll Never Walk Alone, it gives you goosebumps on your arms. It was a brilliant moment.
“I’ve just had to keep working hard regardless of who the manager was. Even under AVB [Andre Villas-Boas] I just made sure I worked hard. Luckily I got my opportunity under Tim and this time I’ve been given a chance as well. I don’t think it’s a matter of who’s in charge, it’s just a matter of working hard yourself.
“I’ve got to keep impressing the manager. Of course it was a great experience [to get my debut] but my main aim now is to forget about it, move on and try to get myself into the squad more often now by working hard and training well.
“I need to focus on playing here first but, internationally, that’s a big priority for me as well and hopefully one day maybe I’ll be making my senior appearance for England. That would be fantastic as well.”
Tottenham’s academy has produced a crop of talented, homegrown midfielders who have grown up with Spain and Barcelona as the dominant forces in Europe and are aware of the importance of possession and quick passing.
In addition to Bentaleb and Mason, Under-21 international Tom Carroll named pass masters Paul Scholes, Luka Modric, Andres Iniesta and Xavi as his favourite players and is currently on loan at Swansea.
Winks sees himself in a similar role, but he is also keen to contribute in the final third and provide a cutting edge.
“I like to model my game on players like Xavi, who like the keep the ball with a high volume of passes and pass completion,” he said. “Goals and assists are obviously a key part for a midfielder, but if I had to describe myself I’m just generally a tidy, technical midfielder that likes to keep the ball and create chances.
“Zinedine Zidane is the ultimate one that you model your game on because he was just an unbelievable midfielder, but there are loads of players - Steven Gerrard, even Paul Gascoigne. I wasn’t old enough to see him but from clips I’ve seen he was an fantastic player.”
Tottenham will aim to show off some more of the quality in their youth ranks on Monday as their Under-18s face Blackburn Rovers in the third round of the FA Youth Cup at Dagenham & Redbridge.
Winks, who played in the competition last season, is now in an older age group, but he is hoping that his fellow young stars will take their first step towards some silverware this season.
“I was there last year so I’ve been there to watch the Under-18s and hopefully they’ll do well,” he said.
“I think the ultimate aim of the academy is to progress players into the first team, but obviously as players we want to win every game and win trophies, tournaments and cups as well. Either way it’s a win-win situation.”
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