Brilliant Harry Winks display sends strong message to Gareth Southgate ahead of Euro 2020

Darting through the midfield, there was an eye-catching flash of white delivering a message for Gareth Southgate.

Harry Winks scored his first goal for England, delivered another outstanding performance and has surely gone a long way towards playing himself into the Euro 2020 starting XI.

What is remarkable is that Winks has now won six caps, England have won all of them and the Spurs midfielder appears to be something of a lucky charm.

But there is more to his game than coincidence because Winks offers the sort of drive, energy and control from midfield that Southgate has been looking for. Another puzzle solved for Southgate.

Harry Winks wrong-footed the Kosovo goalkeeper to score his first England goal

This time, Winks played a little further forward to accommodate Declan Rice who anchored England’s midfield but these last three games have given Southgate food for thought all over the pitch.

The defeat in Czech Republic last month – England’s first in qualifying for ten years – was almost like hitting the reset button and since then, against Bulgaria, Montenegro and now Kosovo, different players have stepped up to try and seize their opportunity.

Winks has done it, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tyrone Mings have also staked their claim. The competition is fierce but you can also sense that the players know the tournament is approaching fast and it is now or never for them.

Injury deprived Winks and Oxlade-Chamberlain of a place in last year’s World Cup squad and they are determined not to let the chance pass them by again.

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Mings again looked solid alongside Harry Maguire and there was even a decent audition from stand-in keeper Nick Pope who made his first competitive start and, while it was not the most testing away trip, he dealt with everything thrown in his direction.

England’s players celebrate Winks’ opener in Kosovo

Incredibly, there are now just 209 days until England kick off their Euro 2020 campaign at Wembley on June 14, there are just two more friendlies until Southgate names his squad and this generation can do something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Qualifiers like this are not a true test, Southgate will line those up in March and yet England have a forward line to strike fear into opponents with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling both surely in the world class bracket.

There was no hangover from last week’s drama for Sterling who provided two assists. And you can always count on Kane to score. Incredibly, Kane has scored in all eight of England’s qualifiers in the Group and it is now 20 goals for club and country this season.

The late goal rush – three goals in the last 11 minutes – put a different slant on the scoreline but still did not seem to ruin Kosovo’s night as they loved welcoming England to Pristina. Incredibly, England got a standing ovation from the home supporters when they trooped off the pitch.

This has been a wonderful couple of days for England, their fans and players getting a remarkable reception as the tiny Balkan nation is forever grateful to British troops for being part of an international coalition that forced Serbia to withdraw following a bitter conflict in the late 1990s.

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Gareth Southgate’s thoughts will now turn towards next summer’s European Championship

But they also play with great pride here, they worked hard and made life awkward early on. Winks who drove forward, latched onto Oxlade-Chamberlain’s clever pass before dropping his shoulder and celery disguising a low, composed shot into the bottom corner.

There were scares for England rather than big chances for the home side but, when Marcus Rashford came on for the ineffective Callum Hudson-Odoi, the momentum firmly swung in Southgate’s favour.

Sterling pulled the ball back for Kane who smashed the post after 63 minutes. After 79 minutes, England got a second when Sterling’s cross was deflected, there was Kane at the back post to smash home.

After 83 minutes, Sterling turned provider again for Rashford who raced through and slotted home. Fikayo Tomori was brought on as a late substitute to ensure he commits to England. Then there was even time for Mason Mount to get his first England goal after a defensive mix-up.

It was a job well done, qualification completed and only one slip up. Now get ready for the excitement to build.


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