The 21-year-old was drafted into the squad for the final two qualifiers after Manchester City’s Fabian Delph was forced out by injury. Winks did not feature in the 1-0 home win against Slovenia on Thursday but the Tottenham midfielder played in all of the win against Lithuania.
Winks impressed in the central midfield role in which he was given licence to move forward and caught the eye with his ability to create. Southgate’s side have been criticised for lacking this dimension behind the attack, and Winks’s display may persuade the manager to offer him further opportunity.
“I trust my ability and believe I am good enough to play at this level,” Winks said. “All I can do is keep performing for Tottenham and then for England if I get the opportunity … It is a long way away and all I can do is work hard, stay level-headed and keep trying to improve and do everything I possibly can. Of course it is something I’ve dreamed of, to be able to say I’ve been to the World Cup.”
Winks praised Mauricio Pochettino, his club manager, for his guidance after making his full Premier League debut last November. Winks scored in that 3-2 defeat of West Ham United but there have been only three league starts since. Winks is the 12th player coached by Pochettino at Southampton or Tottenham to get an England debut.Winks said: “He is a top manager but a top man as well. He is someone always there to give you advice and he breeds confidence around the camp. He gives everyone that confidence to just go and show what they have got. As a player that is the most important thing.
“Obviously when you get that opportunity, not only is it great for the manager to do it, but as players we have to justify it. I can say I’ve done that with the manager but not only has he helped me physically and technically, he’s helped me mentally and that is something I can’t thank him enough for.
“He says not to get too ahead of yourself, try to find that balance with everyone in the squad, especially with me first getting in the [Tottenham] team as it was difficult for opportunities. He congratulated me [on the call-up], dropped me a text and said it was deserved.”
Southgate, who also gave a debut to Harry Maguire in Lithuania, said: “Winks is a real plus because we were thinking people like Delph would come in [the squad reckoning], but Winks was one we thought might take longer. But [this] was the perfect game to give Winks a feel of playing for England. But I am also conscious he’s a very young player and at a very formative stage of his career.”
Winks had expected to play for the under-21s before Delph left the squad. “We were all at St George’s Park,” he said. “I got the text from the under-21s manager [Aidy Boothroyd] to come to the dressing room and I went in there and he told me I was promoted to the senior squad. I was in shock. I didn’t really believe it. Then he took me up to see Gareth and luckily it all went well.”
Winks has also attracted attention for wearing boots that are black and unbranded. “I’m not getting into that,” he said.
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