Proud parents of Harry Winks speak to Gazette about the journey towards his England call-up
He is the new hope of England's midfield, a ball playing tyro who has apparently come from nowhere.
He may have caught the eye with his England debut on Sunday, but Harry Winks’s football story goes back almost two decades – to almost his very earliest years.
Mum Anita told the Gazette: “Even as a small child Harry would play with a rolled-up sock, he’d be dribbling it everywhere all the time.
“Then he moved onto a tennis ball. He’d always be kicking it all around the house, driving me mad!”
Harry’s potential was first spotted at age five, when he was at one of Ross & Andy’s Soccer Camps.
They recommended him to Tottenham Hotspur, and Harry’s abilities soon became well-known, with several clubs courting him in his younger years.
Nonetheless at age nine there was only one club for Harry to sign to – partly because he was already enjoying his time training with the Spurs youth set-up, and perhaps partly because he was already a Tottenham fan.
Dad Gary said: “Of course he’s a Spurs fan, that was forced on him by me!
“But then, because he was with the club he’d sometimes get tickets for the senior team. My uncle had taken me to White Hart Lane when I was a kid, and now I’d go with Harry.”
While the life of a professional footballer can seem like a glamorous one from the outside, Anita and Gary were keen to stress the many sacrifices that Harry has made from a very young age.
From joining up with the Spurs youth set-up twice a week and all weekend, to moving out of the family home at age 16 to live in ‘digs’, the decision to dedicate his life to his dreams was not an easy one for Harry – or for the rest of the Winks family.
Anita: “Harry had to change, mentally. He was very homely, and moving out at that age was very hard.
“Moving from the family home, to live with people he had never met, was probably the hardest thing he did in his whole career. All three of us – me, Gary, and Harry’s sister Milli – were stood there crying as he shut the front door.
“He went to live in Southgate, and we’d only see him one evening a week.
“However the family he lived with were really, really nice. Lesley and Matt loved Harry – and as Matt is a driving instructor he even taught Harry how to drive.”
And yet after that long journey Harry was eased into the Spurs team, making substitute appearances before his first league start last season against West Ham – a landmark he marked with his first goal for the club.
Anita said: “We were in a box at the stadium, and couldn’t believe it. He looked up to us after scoring, and it was all worthwhile.”