Harry Winks' journey from Tottenham academy to England squad
Harry Winks has been on an upwards trajectory during the last two seasons and has earned a place in the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania. The 21-year-old was called up to the squad after Phil Jones and Fabian Delph were ruled out with injuries. This provides a huge opportunity to the young midfielder as the World Cup is less than a year away and a good showing over the next week could propel him into Gareth Southgate’s thinking for next summer.
The Tottenham player has made seven appearances for the team this season and has grown used to representing his country throughout his career playing youth football. He was capped by England at under-17, under-18, under-19, under-20 and under-21 levels, which underlines how highly he has been thought of within the national set-up since he broke through at youth level.
There are some that believe that this call-up comes too soon, as he has only started four Premier League matches since breaking through at Tottenham. The critics believe that his call-up is premature and that he hasn’t done enough to earn a place in the England set-up yet. However, it is more difficult to break through at a top-six club and Winks has looked impressive every time he has been given an opportunity.
If Gareth Southgate sees the 21-year-old as a future England player, there is an advantage of getting him in a squad early to take a look at him and see how he fits in. These next two games are ones the Three Lions should win and it is as perfect a time as any to give experience to young players coming through. Winks has passion for his country as shown by comments earlier this year that committed him to England rather than Spain, a country he qualified for through his grandparents.
“Obviously I have goals and ambitions that I’d love to achieve this year. Of course, I’d love to play for England this year, but that’s not something I’m saying I’m going to set myself to do. I’m just going to take it step by step in getting into the team.”
This shows good ambition and it is encouraging that he wants to play for England, as a few players in the past haven’t shown commitment to the national team. Although his lack of experience is a problem for some, team-mate Harry Kane is clearly a fan and spoke up the midfielder’s England chances before the call-up was announced:
“He’s waited patiently for his chance. He’s just got to keep doing what he’s doing, keeping his head down. [Winks is] a great player. On the ball, technically he’s fantastic. He reads the game very well, he can drive past players.”
It is more important for a newly called-up player to have the respect of the dressing room than the nation and these comments show that he is highly thought of within the game. There are a lot of Tottenham players in the England squad and that will help him adapt to the international game. Kane’s comments allude to Winks’ technical ability and that is something lacking in the current squad. It could be that Southgate has included the 21-year-old for this purpose.
His career to date
The Tottenham academy has been successful in recent seasons, as Danny Rose and Harry Kane are two players to graduate to the first-team. Harry Winks followed their path and looks set to make a real impression at the top of the English game. He has been around the first-team in training since the 2013-14 season and signed his first professional deal during the following summer.
Winks made his debut towards the end of 2014 in a Europa League game against FK Partizan, but it wasn’t until last season that he broke through as a regular member of the first-team squad. In August of last year, he made his Premier League debut and started for the first time in November. During his first start, he scored against West Ham to bring Tottenham back on level terms and repaid the faith that Mauricio Pochettino showed in him.
For the rest of the campaign, he was a regular from the subs bench and showed a level of consistency in his performances that suggested he belonged at the highest level. Pochettino has a great record of bringing young players through to senior football and Winks is benefitting from that. Earlier this year, he signed a new five-year contract, which showed the belief that Tottenham have in him.
“I’ve been playing for Tottenham since I was six, but I feel like I’m gradually getting a more important role,”
It was a long journey for Winks to break through as a first-team player, but last season will be looked back on as the season that he emerged. A total of 21 Premier League and four Champions League appearances provided good experience to the midfielder and his performances underlined the potential that he possesses.
The 21-year-old’s career to date is made even more impressive by the fact he hasn’t been out on loan once. His development has been completed solely at Tottenham and that should offer encouragement to supporters. The academy is achieving real success at bringing players through with the right coaching without relying on clubs in the Football League to give them experience in senior football. This means that the players will be moulded into the club’s image, rather than picking up habits from elsewhere. Winks’ success in the first team shows the benefits that can bring.
What is next for Winks?
His primary focus over the coming week will be to impress Southgate and the rest of the England staff in training with the hope of making his debut during this international break. Even if he doesn’t make it onto the field, he will have the opportunity to prove his quality to the coaching staff, which would increase the likelihood of further international call-ups this season.
At club level, he has impressed during his run of appearances this season and at the age of 21, he will be pushing for a regular place in the first-team. The success that Harry Kane has had proves that Mauricio Pochettino is open to giving responsibility to young players. The Spurs manager is a huge fan of Winks, as shown by the following quotes reported by the Evening Standard:
“For me, he is the perfect midfielder, who can play box-to-box and as a holding midfielder,”
The speed at which Winks has made his mark on senior football has given him no time to reflect on his success, but this England call-up will give him a taste of international football. If he continues to develop at Tottenham, there is no reason why he can’t become a regular for both club and country.