‘Sampdoria has shown massive faith in me… I want to repay that’: Tottenham loanee Harry Winks opens up on battling back from injury, learning Italian and doing ‘everything he can’ to save the Serie A strugglers from relegation
- Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks joined Sampdoria on loan last summer
- He had to wait six months to make his debut after undergoing ankle surgery
- He is now in the team and wants to do everything possible to keep them up
Harry Winks did not feel the urge to make the two-hour journey to Milan and watch Tottenham playing in the Champions League.
His head is firmly inside Sampdoria. His mind is fixed on the task of keeping them afloat in Serie A, repaying their faith and patience. And, having spent the first half of a season on loan fighting back from injury, on his own determination to bring his game back to the boil.
‘From the club’s perspective, I really hope we can stay up,’ Winks told Sportsmail. ‘It’s a difficult task but we definitely believe. From a personal perspective, I just want to stay fit, continue to play every game and get as many minutes as I can to improve my fitness and my confidence because I’ve got a great platform to do that here.’
Winks made his fifth appearance for Sampdoria, a club in dire financial straits and next to bottom in Italy’s Serie A, in a gutsy goalless draw against Inter Milan on Monday.
‘To get a point against top opposition was nice,’ said the 27-year-old. ‘For confidence and because we need some points on the board. We’ve got a good team with good people, and we need to be brave on the ball and show that.
Harry Winks joined Sampdoria on loan in the summer but had a lengthy wait for his debut
Winks had to watch his team-mates struggle from the sidelines for the first part of the season
‘It’s a new team but everyone’s integrating slowly. We’re going in the right direction and I love it. I enjoy playing for a team with so much history. It’s a huge club and you can feel that. Everybody knows it’s a difficult time at the moment, but every time I get an opportunity I will play as hard as I can because I’m grateful for the love and respect they’ve shown me since I first arrived.’
Winks, whose Tottenham contract will expire next year, joined Sampdoria on a one-season loan in August only to find the ankle problem nagging away at him was going to require surgery to repair properly.
‘It has taken me a while,’ he said. ‘I’ve been out for six months. Not training and then coming in for a session and then having to go back out with the ankle, it was a nightmare so to come back and feel good, like I do, to feel 100 per cent is all I wanted really.
‘It will take time to get back to full match fitness. That’s four full 90 minutes in a row and it’s what I need to build fitness and get back to form.
‘Sampdoria has shown massive faith in me. They signed me to play and for the first half of the season it was really difficult for me and the club but they stuck with me and I want to repay that faith and appreciation they’ve shown me.
‘Every time I get on the pitch I want to do everything I can to help save this club, to keep this club in Serie A.’
His passing style suits the tempo of Italian football and Sampdoria’s rich history is not lost on Winks, who spoke to Arsenal legend Liam Brady before making the loan move. Irishman Brady swapped North London for Italy in 1980, illuminating Serie A with his vision and creative flair for seven years, with spells at Juventus, Sampdoria, Inter and Ascoli before finishing his playing career at West Ham.
‘Liam told me all about the history of the club and we talked about some of those who played here and the strong history of players from British football,’ said Winks. ‘I’d like to carry on that tradition in a positive way.’
When thousands poured onto the streets of Genoa to pay tribute to Gianluca Vialli, a legend of their most glorious era who died in January at the age of 58, Winks could feel his bonds to the club tighten a little more.
‘You’re surrounded by the history, always,’ said Winks. ‘Unfortunately, with the passing of Gianluca Vialli it was awful, but you could see what the club means. We went to the church for the memorial service and all the fans turned out in the streets. It was beautiful and sad at the same time.
‘Genoa is a lovely city. The pasta is great and the weather is very nice. It’s a different culture and lifestyle, and it’s good to step out of your comfort zone. New culture, new football, new style, new language, it’s something I want to embrace.
‘I’ve been learning Spanish for the last four years so I mix the two up at times but I’m giving it a go. I was taking lessons but then the injury got in the way. I was travelling back to England for different things, injections and surgery, and it broke up the lessons.
‘Now, it’s around me all the time. The coach speaks in Italian and the players all talk in Italian so I’m picking it up here and there and building on it.’
Winks has now established himself in the Sampdoria team, and is desperate to keep them up
Dejan Stankovic, a former Inter midfielder and Serbia international, took charge in October and, despite not being the boss who signed Winks, did not hesitate to thrust the Englishman into a key role, setting the tempo and making play from deep in central midfield.
Against Inter on Monday, he looked completely at home in the famous Samp colours and Stankovic embraced him warmly at the end.
‘He was a fantastic player and he’s been brilliant for me,’ said Winks. ‘He’s another person I give a lot of credit to because he’s been huge for my confidence. I’m learning from him and taking advice. I want to repay his faith in me because he’s been great.
‘I love the responsibility and experience he’s giving me. I feel like a player who is valued and well respected every day.’
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