TOTTENHAM boss Mauricio Pochettino tipped rookie midfielder Harry Winks to scale lofty heights after his side began their FA Cup campaign with a regulation victory over Championship side Aston Villa.
Eight-time tournament winners Spurs cruised into round four after brushing aside an initially stubborn Villa, currently 12th in the second tier, courtesy of second-half goals from Ben Davies and Son Heung-min.
Winks has been a prominent presence for the north London outfit this season, featuring in 20 matches across all competitions, and Pochettino has no doubt that the 20-year-old is a star in the making.
“Today, he was fantastic,” said Pochettino. “He is working very hard. I think he is a special player. It is only time before he achieves big things but, in that way, he can achieve big things quickly.
“He knows very well the key is to work hard and have a good mentality. Every day he is showing that.”
Tottenham were far from their fluent best after making nine changes to the side which beat Chelsea on Wednesday, although Pochettino was unconcerned.
“The FA Cup doesn’t understand about level, whether you come from the Premier League or the Championship, but it was a solid performance from many players that don’t play in the starting XI,” added Pochettino.
“It was a good opportunity for them to show their quality. For many things, we can take a lot of positives from this game.”
Tottenham had won eight of the last nine meetings between the two sides but the hosts barely threatened Villa’s on-loan goalkeeper Sam Johnstone in an abject first half.
Goal-shy striker Vincent Janssen forced Johnstone into a comfortable save moments into the second period, although it proved enough of a false dawn for Pochettino to haul off the Dutchman in favour of Dele Alli on the hour mark.
Johnstone tipped over a thunderous Son attempt, while Toby Alderweireld produced a last-gasp block to deny Villa’s former England frontman Gabriel Agbonlahor from close range.
Tottenham’s attacking potential finally ignited and a cross from substitute Georges-Kevin Nkoudou was deftly glanced home by Davies for his maiden Spurs goal.
Moussa Sissoko, thwarted seconds earlier by Johnstone, turned provider for Son to settle matters on 80 minutes by firing low past the borrowed Manchester United goalkeeper.