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'Honest conversation' with Mourinho behind Winks' return to form with Tottenham

6:26 PM EST 2/29/20
Harry Winks Tottenham 2019-20
The midfielder has credited his manager for inspiring an improvement in his game

Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks says an “honest conversation” with manager Jose Mourinho prompted him to up his work rate in training and subsequently earn himself a regular place in the side.

The England international found himself in and out of the team during the early weeks of Mourinho’s tenure in north London, starting just four of his first 11 games in charge.

However, since forcing his way back into the team for the FA Cup clash at Middlesbrough at the start of January, Winks has retained his place in the side, starting their last 11 matches in all competitions.

The 24-year-old says a frank meeting with his manager was what was required to spark him back into form, including a desire to at times play through the pain barrier.

“I had an honest chat with the manager and he told me what he believed I needed to do," he said. “It was just an honest conversation, which I respect massively. It started with training.

“I just think my whole level and just the intensity as well, which I said to the manager that I agree. Since we had that conversation things have improved and I have been playing more and it is important that I keep those levels and intensity because I want to stay in the team.

“Over the last few years I have realised what pains I can play with and which I need to be a little more pragmatic about. It's something I've got used to now. I am sure every footballer would say the same.”

Tottenham take on Wolves on Sunday on the back of successive defeats to Leipzig and Chelsea, though prior to that they were unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions.

Winks says that run was down to the subtle improvements instigated by Mourinho on the training ground.

"He appreciates what everyone brings to the team and what their strengths are," Winks said of his manager.

“He prefers defensive shape and being organised. That is something we needed to improve on anyway because we were shopping too many goals. Defensively, my role is a lot more important now. I needed to improve on that. I think defensively I have started to improve under the new manager.

“He has said it many times, he wants us to keep the ball, he wants us to create chances, and wants us to build from the back when it is the right time. We are still in the early phases of working out what the strategy is and what the tactics are.”

With Winks’ place in the Tottenham side looking secure, the midfielder can perhaps start to look ahead to this summer’s European Championship and a place in the England squad.

The Tottenham academy graduate, who has six international caps, believes there is a place for him in the Three Lions side, but feels defensive midfield is a position that is often under appreciated by English fans.

“Everybody always talks about players like Paul Scholes or Michael Carrick. People like Michael Carrick get a lot of recognition after they retire and they are more players' players as such,” he added. “Every team needs goalscorers, needs attacking players, needs players who can sweep up the ball, but every team needs that someone who can be that link between both defence and attack.

“If you look at the greatest teams who have played they have always that sort of player. I think in England especially there is always an impetus to look straight for the attack-minded players, to look at the goalscorers and the people who get the assists.

“I think it is important to look back not just at the midfielders but the defensive and look at footballers in a different way. When we score it's who has affected the game that way. But when we break the game down and look in depth and look at the reason why it has happened I think that is overlooked a bit slightly.”