Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe regretful reality of John Bostock’s fairy-tale - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The regretful reality of John Bostock’s fairy-tale - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The regretful reality of John Bostock’s fairy-tale

Does anybody remember John Bostock? If not, then it is likely the memory of anybody taking note of the Football league’s emergency loan deadline day this Thursday would be jogged by the winger’s re-emergence as a last-ditch Swindon loan signing. On 30th May 2008, Tottenham Hotspur unveiled a 17 year old Bostock as their next promising talent after his reputation was built at Crystal Palace. Four years later, Bostock has taken the plunge down into the fourth division, the latest chapter in a story that would ring unerring caution to any future talent currently breaking through.

Bostock still has not made a first team appearance for Spurs, despite the trouble the Premier League club went to in order to obtain him. Bostock had made his debut as a 15 year old vs. Watford in the October of 2007, becoming the youngest Palace player to appear for the club. He went on to captain the under-17 team on England duty and then Palace manager Neil Warnock saw enough from his promising talent to plan a team built around his exciting midfield talent. Warnock, rather sensibly, was quick to urge caution for such a tender green-eyed talent and Bostock only saw first-team exposure a further four times that season, yet this did not stop the Premier League vultures sniffing the scent and start to circle on a vulnerable prey.

After all, Bostock had not yet signed professional terms with Palace, the club he had been at since the precious age of seven, and murmurs of Spurs’ interest turned the head of Bostock and more importantly, his parents. Here was the generic dream of a professional footballer, on a plate as a 17 year old and he could have it so quickly and he took the bait, all in the name of the pragmatic pay-cheque.

What followed was a summer of legal wrangling between the two clubs, Spurs announced his signing on the website, and Palace denied it, negotiations buckled so they turned to the courts. The tribunal concluded on 9th July with a ruling that Spurs would pay an upfront fee of £700,000, appearance-dependant instalments of £1.25 million and another £200,000 reliant on Bostock’s future international career. Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan admitted his disillusionment with football’s sweeping new era of financial gluttony and it sparked off his route to quitting the game altogether, but not before he banned Bostock and his step-father, who had been instrumental in the teenagers’ misled guidance, from Selhurst Park for the forthcoming season.

The trouble from which Spurs went to land the player is indicative enough of the precocious talent the lad possessed at seventeen and he was billed as the shining beacon of England’s bright new generation from the Crystal Palace academy from where Nathaniel Clyne and Wilfried Zaha have emerged after him. However, it didn’t all go to plan, he made his first Spurs appearance in a UEFA Cup tie with Dinamo Zagreb in November 2008 and that was it, there were to be no more. After a year of languishing in the reserves he joined Brentford on loan, before another temporary spell at Hull the following year before most recently, a spell at Sheffield Wednesday which supplemented a grand total of zero Spurs appearances. Four years since his controversial move, Bostock is now 20 years old and his progress has stagnated to the extent that he is seen as assistance to Swindon and Paolo Di Canio’s final assault on promotion from League Two, four tiers below where Spurs occupy fourth place in the Premier League.

Bostock’s move today will slip largely under the radar but it should serve as relevant notice as any of the dangers of a premature move when the temptation of a pot of cash is dangled tentatively in front of the innocent teenager, a danger especially more prominent with the introduction of the FA’s highly abrasive Elite Player’s Performance plan that will reduce the amount clubs will have to fork out in Bostock style tribunal fees. Instead they will be settled on the standing of academies, meaning Premier League clubs will find increased scope for the flex of their financial muscle when they come into business with the youth-promoting smaller club. For a prime example, Chelsea’s £1.5 million acquisition of 14 year old Oluwaseyi Ojo would be nothing more than £150,000 under the new rulings and the floodgates will open for the more affluent clubs to cherry-pick the emerging talent, only to watch them trickle back down the league system in a replication of the John Bostock saga.

Penny for the thoughts then of the representatives of Dan Smith, Crewe’s hotly rated 16 year old who has so far escaped the prying eyes of everybody but Manchester City and upon news of a £300,000 deal being accepted for the player last week, Smith stalled the move himself in favour of careful consideration for his options, in contrast to Bostock’s regretful over-eagerness. Perhaps Smith does not want to end the same way as fellow Crewe academy graduates Ben Marshall and Matthew Lund who exited Gresty Road as 18 year olds, for Stoke in 2009 after a tribunal ruled a compensation fee of £110,000. A combined total of eight loan spells later and Marshall finds himself on loan at Championship side Leicester City whilst Lund is at Bristol Rovers, who form Bostock’s opposition on Saturday in the humble surroundings of the County Ground. Not bad when you consider these two players were the brightest lights in their respective peer groups at youth level, not bad at all.

The forthcoming changes of the rule-book will bring an inevitable fear that, with prices being at a friendly-rate for the higher-level club, they could load a variety of youngsters through the arrivals door in the hope that one or two can make an impact on the senior squad, comfortable in the knowledge that there would not be too much penalty if the other eight or so fall by the way-side. In a laissez-faire youth-market, there will be no grasp of the consequences as the Premier League is given free-reign to promote any number of talented individuals by promising them more fanciful surroundings than the back-waters of League Two, but as Mr Bostock has so demonstrably found out, you could easily end up falling back there in a shot.


Written by Adam Gray; @AdamGray1250