HARRY WINKS’ World Cup dream rests in the hands of Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.
England manager Gareth Southgate has earmarked a place for Winks in his 23-man squad for Russia.
But Southgate will only pick the Tottenham midfielder if he is playing regularly.
And with Winks having just 121 minutes of Premier League football under his belt this term, he needs more game time to secure his seat on the plane.
Winks, 21, enjoyed a tidy Three Lions debut in the 1-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday.
But he knows only decent displays for Spurs from now until May will keep him on Southgate’s radar.
Winks said: “Of course it is something I’ve dreamed of, to be able to say I’ve been to the World Cup.
“But it is a long way away and all I can do is focus on Spurs.
“If you get called up, who knows? I trust my ability and believe I am good enough to play at this level.
All I can do is keep performing for Tottenham. It’s a long way away and I can’t think about it yet.”
With his old-school name, plain black boots and ability to spot a pass or dribble from midfield, Winks seems like a throwback to happier times for English football.
Nobody is comparing the Spurs kid to Paul Gascoigne or Glenn Hoddle.
And nobody is suggesting his international debut was anything more than decent.
It is just that England’s lack of midfield creativity is so glaring.
Winks was only a late addition to Southgate’s squad for the fixtures against Slovenia and Lithuania — but he had already been pencilled in to step up for next month’s friendlies against Germany and Brazil.
The Three Lions boss is all too aware that his team is crying out for a player who can play an incisive pass or advance with the ball — and Winks has those qualities.
The Hemel Hempstead-born ace said: “It’s a dream come true to play for my country at senior level.
“I was in shock when I got the call, I didn’t believe it. Then the Under-21s manager took me to see Gareth and luckily it all went well.
“The Spurs lads have really helped me settle in. It’s a little bit daunting seeing all these boys but they have all been fantastic. It’s been a great week for me.”
Southgate will now follow Winks’ club progress more closely than other players, such is his dearth of creative midfield options.
Jack Wilshere, hampered by injuries and ostracised on loan at Bournemouth last year, is perhaps his only rival as a midfielder with genuine spark — but he is well down the pecking order at Arsenal.
Winks is the 12th player to make an England debut while playing under Pochettino since the Argentine arrived in the Premier League at Southampton in 2013.
Asked about Pochettino’s influence, Winks added: “He says not to get too ahead of yourself, try to find that balance.
“He has stuck by me and given me chances. He is a top manager but he is a top man as well.
“Not only has the manager helped me physically and technically, he’s helped me mentally and that’s something I can’t thank him enough for.”
So keen is Southgate to take Winks to Russia that he would surely appreciate the player heading out to a lesser top-flight side in January if he is not playing regularly for Tottenham.
That seems extremely unlikely so, in the meantime, Southgate will just have to trust in Poch — an England manager’s best friend.
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