English-born midfielder John Bostock is anticipating the chance of realizing a childhood dream of playing international football.
And this opportunity could be present to him as early as this coming Friday when Trinidad and Tobago faces St Vincent and the Grenadines in Kingstown in the first of two back to back 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Bostock, now 24, is a past England National Under 17 captain who at one time was touted as a possible England Senior team player.
But now, Bostock is happy to have made the choice of playing for the birth nation of his grandmother.
“ I’m delighted to be called up for T&T. It’s an honour to be named in the squad and I’m very excited to represent the country of my heritage,” Bostock told TTFA Media on the weekend.”
T&T head coach Stephen Hart has been following Bostock for roughly two years shortly after the T&T team initially made contact with the player to invite him for the Caribbean Cup participation in 2012.
“ For a while I’ve known of the interest of T&T and it was of course an honour to be considered to be in the coaches plans. However it was important for me to first be stable at club level. Now definitely feels like the right time and I’m excited to get things on the way,” said the ex-Crystal Palace player who was born in Camberwell, England.
“ I know the team has been doing very well, I’ve been following the results and it’s clear to see that there is a lot of quality and great team spirit,” he said.
Bostock, a former England Under 19 player, has been to Tobago before and knows a bit about the country’s culture.
“I spent some time in Tobago a while back and it was an amazing experience. I’m close to my Trinidadian family in London so I’ve grown up around the culture but I’m looking forward to experiencing it for myself.
“ Growing up I always spoke to my Grandma about potentially playing for the country she was from, with her recent passing it feels like even more of an honour and I know that she would be very proud of me,” he added.
Bostock’s history is an impressive one. “Bostock was once the golden boy of English football,” the Daily Mail described him as.
A graduate of the Crystal Palace academy, he made his first-team debut at 15. He became the world’s most wanted teenager. Chelsea made a bid when he was only 14. Arsenal sent Cesc Fabregas’ shirt and Barcelona upped the ante by sending Ronaldinho’s boots. Eventually, he settled on Tottenham Hotspur, who paid a £700,000 fee – decided by a tribunal – when he was 16 in 2008.
But in five years at White Hart Lane, he did not make a start except for cameos in the Europa League and had loan spells to clubs Hull City, Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford and Toronto.
In 2013, he was convinced by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to join to Royal Antwerp in Belgium before he moved to his current club OH Leuven.
In this article published in the UK Press, Bostock talks some more about his career.
“I’ve spent so long trying to work out what happened, searching for a reason,’ Bostock says, shaking his head ‘I have driven myself crazy thinking about this.”
Bostock, a devout Christian, added ‘I take the game seriously and try to do everything right but it comes down to what you do on the pitch. There are players who might go out a during the week but then do the business on the pitch.
‘My big issue was confidence. At 16, I played on instinct, with no fear. The pressure arrived, expectations arrived and when you don’t have that someone there to support you – by that I mean a manager or a coach or a club where there is a plan for you – you feel like you lose control of the situation.’
Bostock is not embittered by his Tottenham experience – indeed, he raves with sincerity over the England exploits of his Spurs youth team pals Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Andros Townsend – but he has been bruised by the trauma of recent years.
“I signed when Juande Ramos was manager and Damien Comolli was sporting director. It was a very different club to now where Pochettino is giving everyone a shot. No young players were playing. In my position, there was Luka Modric, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Gareth Bale – world class players. I came in at 16 and hoped it would be like it was at Palace. It wasn’t. When you don’t get a game, when you get put back into the Under 18s, it becomes a huge mental challenge.
“You question everything. Every day, you are pushing on and you believe, and you see other people messing about and getting a breakthrough. You think “Will it ever happen for me?”
“I had long discussions with my pastor, who I am very close to at The Christian Life Fellowship in Greenwich. I was hit hard. My mum was hit hard. If you live by other people’s opinions, you become very shaky, like a wave tossed in the sea.’
“I over-thought everything, I became almost obsessive. I thought that because of my reputation, I had to do something brilliant in every game. When you think so deeply, you take stuff onto the pitch and look as though you are carrying the weight of the world. I couldn’t relax. Every time I made a mistake, I’d be worrying on the pitch what people would say or write. I’d be thinking “I’m supposed to be the best player on this pitch and I can’t get it right.” I cared too much, if anything. Now I know that a bad performance doesn’t make me a bad person.
Could Tottenham have done more to shield him? ‘In the Under 18’s we had college once a week and worked with a sports psychologist. It was never really in depth, though. He was a good guy but it was in groups. I definitely would have benefited from more one-on-one. Sometimes you need to play your way out of it. It’s 90 minutes a week, with 22 people, and that’s it. The last two years, that’ s how I’ve viewed it. I have stopped thinking too much. I needed to, for my sanity.”
In June 2013, after a fifth season at Spurs that was split between Swindon Town and Toronto, he was released. It was then that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink persuaded Bostock to head to Royal Antwerp in Belgium.
“Jimmy said “Just come here and play football.” Regardless of what people thought, I just wanted the platform to show what I can do. Last season was for the first time I’d made more than 12 appearances – including as a sub – in a season.’