England's Harry Winks on his rise from junior football to living his dream at Spurs

The Three Lions and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder is living out his childhood dream with both club and country, as he looks back at his days growing up in grassroots football right up until his bow at the highest level…

Tuesday 24 Sep 2019
England's Harry Winks hails from the town of Hemel Hempsted, in Hertfordshire
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I grew up in Hemel Hempsted and it was good to be honest, it’s a real footballing area and there was a lot of local teams so I just loved it.

I’ve been playing football as long as I can remember really, which was mainly down to my dad.

He used to play semi-professional football himself for Hemel Hempsted Town and Berkhamsted. He was pretty good and I remember going with my mum to watch him play lots of times, so that’s among my first football memories, going to watch my dad play on Saturdays.

My dad was friends with my old Sunday league manager and I remember him taking me to my first game at five-years-old, so it’s just good memories from there.

One of my best friends growing up was Cauley Woodrow, who now plays for Barnsley and who also came from Hemel and our mums knew each other.

Playing for England is something that everyone dreams of doing

We both played for a local team called Echoes together. He was actually at Tottenham's academy before I was and then we both went together and shared car rides to training with our parents.

But then he joined Luton and eventually Fulham, so we went our different ways but it was amazing to be team-mates and room-mates a few years later when we were in the England U21s squad together for a few trips.

I also used to love playing for my primary school team and then when I was at secondary school, I still played through all the year groups, even though I was at Spurs by then and they didn’t really want us to play for our schools.

HARRY WINKS: PLAYER PROFILE

But I did love it, so I was cheeky enough to play the games on a Wednesday afternoon and then go straight to Tottenham for training after that. I just loved it.

It’s hard to believe now, but I used to be a right winger when I was younger…I was rapid, skilful and scored goals. I remember with the U7s or U8s I won a trophy for scoring 33 goals in the season and I’ve still got that trophy at home. Looking back, I could do with a couple of them now!

I switched to central midfield when I was at Spurs and I can still remember exactly when. We used to train in a little ball court behind the old White Hart Lane, and I was always on the right.

Coming through the ranks with England's youth teams was a great experience for me

I remember one of the coaches, Russell Small, pulled me to one side and told me I’d be a midfielder so he converted me into a central midfielder and I’ve never looked back. You take your coach’s advice, and that’s probably the best advice I’ve been given.

There were a few coaches at Tottenham who were really, really key for me. One was Roger Miller, who still coaches the younger age groups and the other was Russell. Then, there are people like John McDermott and more of the academy coaches who all helped me when I was learning and growing.

It was all a dream at the time. My dad is a massive Spurs fan, he used to go with his uncle when he was younger and he drilled that into me from when I was a young age. So when I was first involved at the club, it was great for him.

I remember the first few games I went to, we managed to get us tickets right on the halfway line in the leather seats for a game against Middlesbrough. I can’t even remember the score or who played as it was a long time ago, but I would’ve been five or six.

With England, my first call-up came for the U16s when I was picked to go to Nordic Tournament in the Faroe Islands. I remember Dele was there in that squad too, and it was brilliant, I loved it. I remember when I first got the call and my dad was buzzing too.

Since then, there’s been some great moments with England. One of them was with the U18s, when we played Germany at Rotherham and I scored the winner! It’s still on YouTube! Of the era coming up through the ranks with England, that was probably the most amazing moment for me.

At the time, I remember getting told afterwards that it was the first time we’d beaten Germany in the development age groups for quite a while so it was just great to be involved.

Playing for England is something that everyone dreams of doing, you dream of playing football for the team you support and your country and to be doing both at the moment, I’m in a privileged position and I love it.

But everyone knows how quickly football can turn so it’s important to keep working to make sure I’m still knocking on the door.

Harry's grassroots story first appeared in the programme for England's game with Bulgaria in September 2019, which you can still order online.

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By Harry Winks England and Tottenham Hotspur