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Can Harry Winks Handle And Rise Above The Jack Wilshere-Esque Hype?

The world of Premier League football can be a harsh place for any youngster striving to achieve their dreams. More than anything else, it is tough to even get the chance to make a mark but even after you do that, there are very little chances of maintaining that momentum due to lack of opportunities. And then there are some youngsters who are immediately thrust into the spotlight and are dubbed ‘the next so-and-so’, even as they struggle to get used to the glare of the harsh lights.

Harry Winks

Harry Winks

Players like Marcus Rashford, Harry Winks and Jack Wilshere are few of such examples in modern times. While Rashford has managed to stay grounded and cement his position, Winks rose to prominence for Tottenham Hotspur this season after a series of spell-binding performances, which saw him earn appreciation from fans and critics alike. What truly catapulted him to centre-stage was his brave performance against reigning European champions Real Madrid. While all the praise he is receiving is well-warranted, this does seem similar to a time when another English youth went through the same – only to fizzle out in the end.

When the world first got a taste of Jack Wilshere at Arsenal, he was immediately dubbed ‘the English Iniesta’ or ‘the English Xavi’. Very few English midfielders are able to replicate – if not better – the form shown by most midfielders in Spain. Intricacy, technical knowledge, pace and physicality are some of the attributes associated with them but not many in England are able to play in a similar fashion. However, there are times when the mould is broken and a youngster comes up with the promise of playing beautiful football in the middle of the park.

Wilshere was a product like that for Arsenal. He rose through the ranks rapidly and became a sensational figure for the North London club. The fans loved him and so did the pundits. In fact, the player’s then-fledgling career rose to greater heights after he had the last laugh against Barcelona when he had to play against Xavi and Iniesta. It seemed like a mighty task for a 19-year-old but Wilshere stood up to the challenge and dominated the famed Catalan duo, much to the astonishment of everybody watching. He was destined for greatness and the English fans and media were delighted with this new maestro.

Unfortunately for the player, the sweet taste of success did not last very long. A dip in form coupled with a slew of injuries ate up all his time on the field. Considering how intense the Premier League is, there’s no scope to take risks when it comes to awaiting a return from injury. The Gunners had to find out the hard way and they eventually moved on to different players while Wilshere got stuck far behind. Despite being one of Arsenal’s most celebrated young players, it might be best for him to move on from the club to avoid stagnating his career.

It is indeed a tragic end to his time with Arsenal but it is these unavoidable circumstances that make every minute on the field so precious. And now, it does seem like Winks is the latest player to be subjected to such pressure and hype. He did gain recognition in the Premier League after his exploits for Spurs but Winks received far greater appreciation after he stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the likes of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Isco in a Champions League encounter. The first leg ended in a draw but the second leg was his ticket to fame. He completely dominated the midfield area and played a splendid game of football that was astounding to watch. Real Madrid’s midfield greats were left baffled by the wizardry of Winks.

Tottenham ultimately won that game and one can majorly attribute their successes to the 21-year-old. What makes his display all the more impressive is the fact that he seemed like the only one in the middle to ward off threats posed by the midfielders while his partners Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele seemed pre-occupied with either supporting the attack or guarding the defence.

The road from here on for Winks can go in any direction but he must be vigilant enough to differentiate between what he should do and what people expect him to do. More often than not, these lofty expectations are the reason behind the decline in players’ forms. Wilshere succumbed to the pressure and failed to live up to the immense hype surrounding his every move but it will be of utmost priority for Mauricio Pochettino to ensure Winks does not endure a similar fate. Shielding Winks from the harsh glare of the spotlight might be tough but it is necessary to salvage his career.

It has been ages since an English midfielder has caught the fancy of the footballing world. Yes, Harry Kane is clearly doing wonders for the national team but he is a striker. Even in the game against Real Madrid, Kane was dependent on Winks to create spaces to ease himself into the play. That said, there is no undermining Kane’s brilliance. They are more like a co-existent pair of players right now and to succeed in the front, the Spurs hitman can benefit from having a player like Winks in the English team.

It will be quite a task but perhaps Pochettino and the English media can prevent Winks from turning into a Wilshere. There is a certain amount of pressure on the youngster right now but he is a bit more mature than what the Arsenal man was back then. Knowing that all of this can vanish in an instant is likely to keep him grounded. At the same time, it is also important for people around him to feed his talent and not his ego.

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