Harry Winks: "You can never think it's over"
Wed 22 May 2019, 09:00|Tottenham Hotspur
Harry Winks was back to his youth watching our monumental away legs against Manchester City and Ajax on our amazing journey to the Champions League Final.
A Spurs fan, the Academy graduate had to swap central midfield at the Etihad and Johan Cruyff ArenA for the centre of his couch in front of his TV at home, nerves shredding, heart pounding, as we progressed on away goals in Manchester and Amsterdam.
Instrumental in our recovery in the competition, 'Winksy' enjoyed a run of six starts from PSV in Matchday Four to the quarter-final first leg against City, a wonderful first Champions League night and 1-0 victory at the new stadium. Six matches, five wins and a draw, late drama - progress.
But a groin injury struck against City and after 41 appearances, nine in the Champions League, that has been his last involvement this season. He's currently working overtime on his on-field rehabilitation.
Imagine playing in that first leg and then watching the second leg unfold at home. We conceded early (1-1 on aggregate), went 2-1 up (3-1 aggregate) but then 4-2 down (3-4 aggregate) before Fernando Llorente turned home Kieran Trippier's corner to haul us back to 4-3 (4-4 aggregate) in the second half. That was checked by VAR - goal awarded. Then, deep in added time, Raheem Sterling scored to essentially knock us out, only for VAR to step in again. Goal disallowed and we went through on away goals.
"It was difficult to watch the second leg against City, I was out and it was tough not to be part of it, especially after playing in the first leg," reflected Harry. "I had my friends around. I couldn’t watch it on my own! I sat there and as much as I was disappointed not to be out there with the team, my focus was on supporting the lads and hoping we’d get through.
"It was eventful to say the least! It all happened so quickly at the end. I had to watch the replay three or four times just to make sure Raheem Sterling's late goal was offside. That was difficult for the heart rate! What an amazing night."
Then Ajax. We trailed 1-0 from the first leg and Ajax went 2-0 up in the first half to lead 3-0 on aggregate. We needed three goals in the second half to progress and Lucas Moura delivered on 55, 59 and that dramatic winner in the last seconds of added time. It ended 3-2 on the night and we were through to the final.
"I was working hard on my rehabilitation and I couldn't travel out to Amsterdam," he recalled. "It was just incredible. After Jan hit the crossbar (on 86 minutes) you begin to think ‘is this it?’ but when the third goal went in I was up. Even though I wasn’t there, I felt like I was with them, jumping up and down in my living room.
"It’s a difficult situation, watching on TV from home, one of the toughest times of the season for me because I would have loved to have been out there, but I knew I couldn’t be. The most important thing is that we got through. What a performance!"
At this point, it's worth scrolling back to that night against PSV on 6 November.
Winksy was so impressive starting alongside Christian Eriksen in an attacking line-up with Heung-Min Son, Lucas, Dele and Harry Kane. We had to win and did just that thanks to Harry's late double, the winner in the 89th minute.
Speaking after that win, Winksy gave an indication of the mentality that would ultimately take us through to Madrid. "The minute you stop believing is the minute the other team wins," he said. "We had to keep believing, we knew we had the quality to get the goals back and we proved it."
This was the first of Harry's six starts on the trot in this Champions League run. PSV was followed by Inter and Barcelona, where late goals completed 'mission impossible' to qualify for the knockout phase. Starts four and five saw us dispatch Borussia Dortmund 4-0 on aggregate (3-0 at home, 1-0 away) before the City first leg, a night to remember and 1-0 win at our new stadium on 9 April.
Summing it all up, Winksy reflected: "It’s been amazing, especially those first few games where we turned it around. We’d been written off, one point in three games, we were basically told ‘you can’t qualify from there’ but as a squad, we never gave up, we didn’t quit.
"We had a bit of luck along the way - PSV drawing with Inter in the final group games – but we still had to get a result at the Nou Camp that night and played really well.
"That’s made this run even more special, the fact that we’ve come from so much adversity, come from behind in games and yet we’ve got to the final through sheer hard work, belief, quality of course and determination."
Did he ever think we were out, at any point? "Honestly, no," he stated. "The only time you can say that is on the final whistle of the final game. We’ve scored late goals in the group, in the knockout, in the semi-final, such dramatic scenes. That epitomises the club and the squad, we never give up, so many important late goals. You can never think it’s over.
"We’ve really had to graft and show character and mental strength. It’s an incredibly story for us to get to the final - the way we’ve got there is even better."