Winks: Spurs stars keep youngsters in check

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Harry Winks admits Tottenham’s big names are quick to stamp out any arrogance from youngsters coming up through the club.

Winks, however, a boyhood Spurs fan who joined the youth ranks aged five, felt not over-confident but star-struck when suddenly rubbing shoulders with the players he looked up to for so long.

“The first year or so when I got in it was a bit like ‘wow, I am here’,” Winks said.

“It was a bit strange – ‘I am training with (Christian) Eriksen, (Jan) Vertonghen, (Mousa) Dembele, I am with them on match day in the changing room, sitting next to them’.

“As time goes on and you get more games and you train with them every day it just gets a bit more natural.

“It is important not to get arrogant about it. It is important to stay level-headed. They don’t want someone coming in being an a***hole.

“They would bring you down a peg if they thought that was happening. But that’s not my personality. I am not an arrogant guy. I would never do that.”

Vertonghen, a key figure in the Tottenham dressing room, has been influential in Winks’ progress, as has Scott Parker, the club’s former midfielder and captain.

“Jan Vertonghen helped, especially last season,” Winks said.

“I wasn’t playing so much and he would say, ‘you are a good player, keep going. You will get your chances’.

“And Scott Parker when he was here. He used to give me a lot of advice. He gave me his number and I still talk to him.”

Mauricio Pochettino handed Winks his first-team debut in November 2014, against Partizan in the Europa League, but this season the 20-year-old has become a serious option for Tottenham’s midfield.

He has made 19 appearances, already 17 more than last term, including 13 in the Premier League, and is expected to start Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie at home to Aston Villa.

After the success of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier at White Hart Lane there is growing optimism Winks can become Tottenham’s next big British breakthrough.

“I play like I’ve played since I was five,” Winks said. “I don’t want to go on the pitch and change my game because that is the reason I got there, playing like I always have played.”

A dynamic, ball-playing midfielder, Winks is competing with Victor Wanyama and Dembele for a starting spot at Spurs but Pochettino has shown trust in the youngster on several occasions this season.

He started, and scored the winner, against West Ham in November, started against Monaco and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, and came off the bench when Tottenham were chasing equalisers against both Chelsea and Manchester United.

“Since I have been in the first-team squad since the manager came here, he has made a point of not sending me out on loan,” Winks said.

“He said he wants me to train and stay and play here. The fact that he wants me to do that is obviously a good sign for me and that he likes me.

“You have to respect managers like him. He is a really approachable person. You can talk to him about anything. His office is always open.

“He will pull you in if he thinks things are here and there. If we are not performing and doing well, he will tell us. You have to buy into his ways of doing things.”

After the hectic Christmas period, Pochettino is expected to rest a number of key players against Villa, giving the likes of Vincent Janssen, Kieran Trippier, Ben Davies, Josh Onomah, and Winks, a chance to impress.

“Any game for Spurs is a brilliant one,” Winks said. “I don’t think the manager will see it as a weakened team. He won’t see it as a game where ‘if we lose, we lose’.

“I think he sees every player in the squad as a potential starter or we wouldn’t be here.”

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