By his own account, Harry Winks has been going to White Hart Lane since he was six.
On Saturday, he’ll most likely make his 23rd appearance for Tottenham’s first team when they welcome Middlesbrough for a must-win Premier League game.
The 21-year-old scored a hugely emotional first goal for the club in November’s 3-2 win over West Ham in what was his full debut under Mauricio Pochettino.
Yet, that was just one indication of the future the England youth starlet has ahead of him.
Winks must have benefited from the encouragement of seeing Harry Kane go before him – it was an indication that in place was a manager who was willing to give Academy products a chance.
The task for Spurs’ latest wonderkid is repaying the faith shown in him by Pochettino; it began with that run to the dugout after his goal against West Ham, but it’s been continuing week in, week out.
In the FA Cup win over Wycombe, the midfielder was one of the few players on the pitch that looked like he was a Premier League regular, at least in the first half while all around him were losing their heads.
His progress has been no accident either. A midfield consisting of the right players has allowed him to find his role among them.
Victor Wanyama, or sometimes Mousa Dembele, have been given the roles of protectors – tough tackling, and in Dembele’s case, bringing the ball forward too.
Winks looks more of a Dembele than a Wanyama; despite his inexperience, here is a player who can dictate the tempo of the game, identifying exactly where the ball needs to be.
Surrounded by a core of English players – Dele Alli and Eric Dier in the middle, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose constantly running down the flanks, and Kane up front – Winks looks at ease.
Speaking recently to the Guardian about going to his first game, he admitted:
“When I play now and I hear the crowd, it still gives me that buzz I had when I was at that age. I don’t think that will ever go, to be honest.”
There is something refreshing about Winks’ steady progress, not to be as easily measured as Kane’s when he started banging in the goals.
It has taken a trained eye like Pochettino’s to see exactly how to get the best out of him, and judging by his impressive performances so far, he’s only going to keep getting better.