Harry Winks has had an incredible rise at Tottenham. Ahead of Spurs’ trip to Manchester United live on Sky Sports on Saturday, he chats to Patrick Davison about his rise to the first team, playing Real Madrid and his initiation song.
It is becoming apparent that it’s almost impossible to knock Harry Winks out of his stride.
I was lucky enough to do his first TV interview this time last year and rather than being paralysed by the cameras as most young players are, Winks – almost – seemed to enjoy the experience.
This time round, he was even more confident. No nerves, no cliched answers, just a succession of Spurs memories about his first visit to White Hart Lane to see his heroes beat Middlesbrough in October 2001, his first Holsten-sponsored Tottenham kit which he used to put on his favourite teddy bear and his days as an academy kid spent scrubbing Scott Parker’s boots, pumping up balls and putting out cones.
Man Utd vs Tottenham
October 28, 2017, 11:30am
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It seems he’s always been this way. At his old school, he’s remembered as a lovely kid who managed to stay focused on his education, even with a career as a Premier League footballer looming.
And then, of course, there’s the way in the last six weeks that he’s achieved pretty much every dream he ever had, and dealt with it as if nothing has happened.
His first big moment in a crazy recent run, and the one of the few times he did get ruffled, came when he was finally called from the academy dressing room to the first-team building a month and a half ago.
“Me and Kyle Walker-Peters got the call to say we were moving into the first-team dressing room,” he said. “It was brilliant, it was such a great moment for us – until the lads told us we had to sing!
“That was a bit daunting, I was absolutely petrified. It went on for a while with me not wanting to do it, I told the lads I’d already done my initiation song.
“Then Hugo [Lloris] stepped up and said, ‘Harry you have to do it’. When the captain says it, you do it and I belted it out. I sang Follow Me by Uncle Kracker – not very well, though.”
Having to sing in front of his team-mates made him nervous, starting against Real Madrid had no such impact.
“I found out just before lunch on the day of the game,” he added. “We had a team meeting and the gaffer named the team. We have a big projection screen – he’ll plug the laptop in, go through the team and how we’re going to play – it was just excitement, I couldn’t wait. The opportunity to play in the Bernabeu is a dream.
“Straight after I called my family. They were gobsmacked but it was an 8.45pm kick-off in Spain – we had all day to prepare – so then I went straight to sleep. I like a little siesta!”
On the back of his afternoon nap and starting comfortably the biggest game of his Spurs career, Winks delivered one of the most promising and composed performances by a young English player in Europe in recent memory.
Even more impressive if you consider he was going head to head with someone he had idolised as a youngster.
“Luka Modric was one of my heroes. I saw him training when I was U15s and U16s but never actually got the chance to train with him. It was a little bit surreal lining up next to him in the tunnel,” he said.
“He is somebody I would love to emulate, his playing style. I’m not the tallest – neither is he – so his style is something I look up to. He seems like a great guy off the pitch too, that’s something all the lads that have played with him have said.”
Nine days before the Bernabeu, the 21-year-old had made his England debut look similarly easy. Again, any nerves came beforehand. None were visible on the pitch.
“I was away with the U21s and it was the strangest thing. I got a text from the liaison officer, who told me to come down to the dressing room because the manager wanted to see me. I went down and one of the coaches told me I had been called up into the senior squad. I didn’t believe it, I thought someone was winding me up but he took me to meet Gareth and he confirmed it.
“The England experience was something I’ll never forget. The lads were brilliant. The first night, we had a meeting and I was really nervous. I was more nervous about going to that meeting than I was playing at the Bernabeu. I didn’t know how the lads would take to me but they were all fantastic.”
As has been the way for Winks recently, the next big challenge is never too far away and on Saturday – live on Sky Sports Premier League from 11.30am – he hopes to start his fourth league game in a row at Old Trafford.
“We’ll go there feeling the same as we do for every other game, trying to get a result,” says Winks. “I’ll be prepared and ready if I’m needed. If I do start I’ll just try and take it in my stride and play my normal game.”
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Beyond Saturday, Winks plans to keep his incredible rise going after featuring 21 times during last season’s title challenge.
“I’d love to be part of a Spurs side that wins the league or wins any trophy,” he added.
“That’s something we’re all aiming for and I think we’re capable of doing it as well. We’ve had a good start to the season. You can never rest on your laurels in football but I’m just going to continue to work hard, try to play and start as many games as I can.”
No one knows how good Winks can be. But we do know that, no matter how big the challenge, it won’t faze him.