Tuesday 23 December 2014 18:32, UK
John Bostock was once the wonderkid of the Premier League, but the now 22-year-old midfielder is playing in the Belgian second tier and does not regret leaving the English leagues.
Bostock made the initial move overseas to Royal Antwerp last summer to join former Chelsea and Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who had taken over as manager. Today, Bostock plays plays for Oud-Heverlee Leuven.
As a teenager he was Crystal Palace’s youngest ever first team debutant - at just 15 years and 295 days - but he has become something of a journeyman since a less-than stellar period at Tottenham, playing for a total of nine clubs.
Bostock never made a regular season appearance for Tottenham in his six years at White Hart Lane. Apart from three first team appearances, Bostock’s time with Spurs was spent largely on loan to Brentford, Hull City, Sheffield Wednesday and Swindon.
Becoming lost in the loan-system wilderness had not been on the radar for a teenager who was touted as the next big thing, and Bostock conceded that the pressure he felt as a youngster at Tottenham could be hard to bear.
“It was difficult, it was challenging: challenging to have to prove your potential, that it’s not just potential but performance. It was tough,” he told Sky Sports News HQ.
Everyone’s dream is to come play in England, so for us as young English players, we grow up thinking this is the only place for us to play.
Bostock said he had “other offers in England” when he left Spurs in 2012 but he opted to make the move overseas – first to Toronto FC in the MLS and then Belgium - to ensure he got game time.
“I was at Spurs for five or six years, my time had come to an end there, and I was just looking for the next step in my career to progress as a player and as a person as well," he said.
“I had a few offers in England, and a few other offers in Europe, but Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took the job at Royal Antwerp and for me, I just needed to get my head down, to play, to learn the game, to really improve as player and really get that foundation of getting games, and he offered me that, and I just thought it was a no-brainer.
“Everyone’s dream is to come play in England, so for us as young English players, we grow up thinking this is the only place for us to play.
“But it came to a point in my career where it was time for me just to play, just to get a football understanding, to improve and develop as a player, learn a different footballing culture, and Belgium was the right place for me.”
Bostock said that staying with Crystal Palace may have meant his career panned out differently, but was adamant that he did not regret the time he spent in the loan system.
“It’s difficult but at the same time it’s valuable experience," he said.
“You learn the footballing ropes. You learn that it’s not always going to well for you but you have to dig deep.”
At 22, Bostock is already playing for his ninth club but has not ruled out a return to the top leagues.
“Maybe my confidence was knocked when I was at Spurs, now I’m rebuilding, now I’m improving, I’m learning the game every week, I’m becoming a better person and player," he said.
“If I’d stayed at Palace, who would have known what was to happen? But I believe there’s more than one way to the top.”