Football supporters love a home grown talent, and the fans of Tottenham Hotspur are no exception. The adulation heaped on Harry Kane by the White Hart Lane faithful, for example, is all the more effusive because the 23-year-old is a product of the Spurs youth system (albeit via Arsenal, though they’ve forgiven that minor transgression).
Kane might be one of the hottest goalscoring talents in the Premier League right now, but the fact he is a local lad is just as important to the fans as the 24 goals he’s scored this season.
It is for the same reason that there will be an extra level of anticipation surrounding Harry Winks’ development at the north London club.
A lifelong Spurs fan and academy graduate, Winks hasn’t featured regularly for Mauricio Pochettino’s side since making his professional debut in the 2014/15 season, a three minute substitute appearance during a Europa League tie against Partizan Belgrade.
Last year, Winks played just 17 minutes of competitive football, but the 2016/17 campaign has seen the 21-year-old enjoy more game time, as well as scoring his first senior goal for the club. It was an important one too, coming off the bench to equalise against West Ham United at the Lane, a match that Spurs went on to win 3-2.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 14, 2017
Winks facing stiff competition
Harry Winks also made his first assist for the senior side recently, setting up Dele Alli for Spurs’ third goal in the 3-2 win over Everton. It’s been a promising start to his career, but breaking into the Tottenham starting line-up will not be easy for the England youth international.
Winks’ natural role is as a defensive midfielder, and this is a position that Pochettino is well catered for. Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembélé have formed an excellent partnership at the heart of Tottenham’s midfield, while England regular Eric Dier is an able deputy for either player.
Winks’ 91 per cent passing accuracy compares favourably with all three of those players, as does his average duel success of 50 per cent, but the youngster isn’t going to crack the starting 11 in the centre of midfield without an injury to one or two of Wanyama, Dembélé or Dier – at least not in the Premier League.
Capable of going forward as well as defending
Fortunately for the player, Winks boasts a versatility that ensures he is able to play in a number of different positions. In recent weeks he has found himself brought on in place of Dembélé, Alli, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, and it is this ability to fill different roles that will be vital to his chances of earning more starts.
Below are two passages of play that highlight Winks’ impact at both ends of the pitch, first against Chelsea in the Premier League, and secondly against Juventus in a pre-season game.
Above, Diego Costa is breaking down the right flank, with Oscar making the run with a view to getting on the end of a cross. Harry Winks is the Spurs player at the top of the picture, a couple of yards behind the Brazilian.
Demonstrating plenty of energy, Winks recovers fantastically, not only beating Oscar for pace but also showing the anticipation to get across into the right position to block Costa’s cross, allowing Eric Dier to clean up.
Below, Winks shows that he is just as capable at creating chances as snuffing them out for the opposition.
He picks up the ball just outside of the D with plenty of blue shirts in front of him, but an injection of speed and flair allows him to ride a challenge, ghost passed another defender and chip in a lovely ball for Shayon Harrison, who unfortunately for Spurs isn’t able to make the most of it.
Despite playing a peripheral role so far this season, Winks looks increasingly assured with every appearance, and the midfielder was influential in Tottenham’s recent FA Cup wins over Fulham (0-3) and Millwall (6-0). He kept his side ticking over with neat passing and a calmness on the ball that belied his tender years.
What next for Harry Winks?
Winks might be boasting a huge amount of potential, but can the young man from Hemel Hempstead expect to be starting more regularly in the final two months of the season?
Unfortunately, Spurs’ early elimination from European football at the hands of Gent mean there won’t be as many opportunities as there might otherwise have been, There are just 11 Premier League games remaining, while they also have an FA Cup semi-final date with Chelsea next month. Winks will certainly feature regularly but it is likely, saving an injury or two, that any appearances will be limited to the bench.
Could a loan spell be on the cards for next season? Harry Kane claims that his stint with Millwall back in 2011/12 made him the player he is today, but Pochettino has no plans to farm out his best young players.
“Nowadays it is not so important for young players to move,” the Argentine manager said ahead of the clash with Millwall.
“I prefer to have our young players here, and offer them the potential to be first-team players, than to send them out on loan.”
Given the level of his performances this season it is clear that his development is progressing just fine under Pochettino and his coaching staff. Expect to hear the name Harry Winks ringing out around White Hart Lane soon – and for many years to come.