Henry Winks

The Spurs star still cleans boots

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Tom Watkins James Maw Words

The ball thun­ders across the waxed sur­face and hits the pins with a ker-plunk so pitch-per­fect, it could have been a sound ef­fect from a zany Amer­i­can sit­com. All 10 pins are sent fly­ing and a big white X ap­pears on the screen sus­pended from the ceil­ing. The half-dozen on­look­ers en­thu­si­as­ti­cally woop and cheer, while a sheep­ish grin ap­pears on Harry Winks’ cheru­bic face. If FourFourTwo’s learnt one thing in our 24 years, it’s that football play­ers are usu­ally very good at any­thing they put their hand to. So it comes as no sur­prise to see this one waltz into a cen­tral Lon­don bowl­ing al­ley, se­lect a ball at ran­dom and non­cha­lantly serve up a strike. “Do you bowl of­ten?” FFT asks the Tot­ten­ham tyro, who turned 22 just days be­fore. “Not re­ally,” he says, pick­ing up an­other ball and strolling back to his mark. This time, the pres­sure is on. A hush de­scends upon the al­ley as a grow­ing au­di­ence watches on in­tently. The only noises are the air con­di­tion­ing’s steady, rhyth­mic whirring and an ar­cade ma­chine that’s older than the Spurs mid­fielder. The ball thun­ders across the waxed sur­face. This time, though, the ker-plunk isn’t quite so text­book. It’s more of a plink as one soli­tary pin is sent top­pling over. Harry Winks’ ten-pin bowl­ing is not, it seems, on the same up­ward tra­jec­tory as his football ca­reer. Mind you, few things could match his past year and a half. “It’s been a bit of a whirl­wind,” he says of an 18-month pe­riod that has trans­formed him from a Spurs re­serve to an Eng­land in­ter­na­tional who has twice run the show against Real Madrid. At the start of last sea­son Winks had played 20 min­utes of first-team football, spread over the lat­ter stages of three Europa League games. Then, within the space of one month, he made his first Premier League ap­pear­ance (as a late sub­sti­tute in a 1-1 draw with Liver­pool), his first start for Spurs (at home to Gilling­ham in the League Cup) and his first Champions League ap­pear­ance (away to CSKA Moscow). Two months after that, he topped off a re­mark­able au­tumn with a first se­nior goal on his first top-flight start – a dra­matic White Hart Lane win over the Li­ly­whites’ Lon­don ri­vals, West Ham. It was all the more en­joy­able for Winks given that he’s from a fam­ily of diehard Tot­ten­ham fans. He at­tended his first match at the age of five, a 2-1 vic­tory over Mid­dles­brough with Teddy Sher­ing­ham and Les Fer­di­nand on the score­sheet. “My dad man­aged to blag us some good seats in the ex­ec­u­tive boxes right on the half­way line,” Winks tells us. “The view was great and Spurs won, so it was the per­fect first match. I don’t re­mem­ber much about the game it­self. The thing that stuck in my mind was the at­mos­phere.” He cites Led­ley King as his hero, and the 2010-11 Champions League run as the high­light of his time as a young fan. “I was a flag-bearer for the home game against Real Madrid,” re­calls the mid­fielder. “We lost 1-0, but as a 15-year-old it was sur­real to be within touch­ing dis­tance of top play­ers like Cris­tiano Ron­aldo.” Their paths would cross again six years later in a sim­i­lar set­ting, but not be­fore a pa­tient bat­tle for reg­u­lar first-team ac­tion. Winks’ first taste of first-team train­ing came as a 16-year-old when An­dre Vil­las-Boas was Spurs man­ager, but it was Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino who gave the young­ster his per­ma­nent pro­mo­tion to the se­nior side. The Ar­gen­tine’s in­flu­ence on Winks has been size­able, and he clearly holds his boss in very high re­gard. “He’s got that aura about him that says he’s the man in charge and you need to re­spect him,” ex­plains Winks. “But he has a light-hearted side, too, so you know that you can chat with him if you ever need to.” That re­spect is clearly mu­tual; Po­chet­tino has even been said to call Winks his ‘Lit­tle Ini­esta’. He will cer­tainly set­tle for that, even if Winks’ boy­hood heroes are a lit­tle on the hum­bler side...

Harry, who were the first-team play­ers that you looked up to when you were in the Tot­ten­ham academy?

Scott Parker was def­i­nitely one. I used to clean his boots, and he was re­ally good with me when I was first com­ing through. He was com­ing to the end of his play­ing ca­reer and al­ways made time for the young lads. I can re­mem­ber one time when he stayed late after train­ing and talked me through some clips from a Europa League match he’d just played in. He showed me a few things that he thought I should do in matches. That re­ally helped me. Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino has had a big in­flu­ence on your ca­reer. Do you re­mem­ber your first meet­ing with him? I do. It was ac­tu­ally when I was sign­ing my first pro­fes­sional con­tract, around the time that he ar­rived at the club. I was in there with my dad and he popped in to say hello. He said that he had watched a lot of my clips be­fore­hand and that the club were right to sign me. I’m not sure if he was be­ing se­ri­ous! I’ve got the ut­most re­spect for the gaffer. What he’s done at the club has been phe­nom­e­nal, and from a per­sonal per­spec­tive, he’s given me op­por­tu­ni­ties, which is all you want as a young player.

What’s the best piece of ad­vice he’s ever given you?

Prob­a­bly just to stick with it men­tally, which he’s told me a few times when he could tell that I was get­ting frus­trated. The first full sea­son with the first team was tough: I was train­ing reg­u­larly and trav­el­ling

Clock­wise from above He put in a star turn as Spurs top­pled Real Madrid; in the 2016-17 sea­son Winks left other play­ers in his wake; “Gut­ter ball!”; in­stinc­tively cel­e­brat­ing his first strike with Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino

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