Too Much, Too Young

“Bloody foreigners, eh? Coming over here, taking our jobs. Disgusting, innit mate?” The sort of xenophobic nonsense you’d expect to be spouted from the spittle-flecked lips of an “I’m-not-racist-but…” Griffin apologist in a Dagenham boozer – not by a Premier League footballer. And yet Spurs midfielder John Bostock has decided to make public his gripe that the club’s “foreign contingent” are hampering his prospects.

Who? You might well ask. Let me fill you in…

When Bostock made his debut in October 2007, he became Crystal Palace’s youngest ever player and went on to pick up the title of the Eagles’ youngest ever starter a week later. Cue lots of “the boy’s a bit special” press. The following summer, having made just five appearances in blue and red, he decided (or was manipulated by his step-father into deciding) that the time was right to move on and jumped ship to Spurs. All of which left egg on the face of his deputy headmaster, who had told the Mail: “He has a lot of humility, he’s very honest and there is no danger of him ever becoming a Big Time Charlie. His feet are firmly on the ground and we’re very proud of him”.

Apoplectic Palace chairman Simon Jordan went from his usual shade of orange to bright purple, declaring that Bostock and his adviser would have their Selhurst Park season tickets revoked – and that was before a tribunal set the fee at a risible £700,000, rising to a maximum of £1.25m.

So it’s safe to say that sympathy for Bostock’s current plight will be in very short supply in SE25. As some fans have quite rightly commented, he could quite happily have stayed put and continued his development at Palace, learning the trade through playing at a reasonable level week in and week out, and in a position in which he could be most effective. But instead he either got pound signs in his eyes or succumbed to overconfidence in his own ability and the hubris of youth (or both), and chose to condemn himself to years of languishing in obscurity at Spurs, his path to the first team blocked by better and more experienced players. In many ways, his fate is even more ridiculous than that of the youth star whose ill discipline and extracurricular antics lead him to piss all his talent up the wall.

Farmed out on loan at lowly Brentford last season, Bostock scored twice on his debut but failed to impress in his remaining nine appearances, to the extent that the Bees were happy for him to return to White Hart Lane in January. And when ‘Appy ‘Harry dared to question his application, his step-father reasoned that giving his son’s manager short shrift on national radio would be the perfect way to advance his cause. Bostock would probably find some way of blaming that on the “foreign contingent” too.

The Premier League’s new squad cap and quota of home-grown players could potentially come to Bostock’s rescue, of course. But if I was you, John, I wouldn’t hold your breath – another loan spell at another lower league side awaits.

Meanwhile, for Palace fans there’s a very real danger of history repeating itself. Amidst a head-turning whirl of interest and succession of bids from Birmingham, teenage full-back Nathaniel Clyne has reportedly declared he wants to leave. Be careful what you wish for, young man.

is the co-founder and co-author of Newcastle United blog Black & White & Read All Over. Since its inception in 2004, he's never been short of things to write about, be they messiahs returning, messiahs walking out, expletive-riddled press conferences or team-mates indulging in fisticuffs. He is the slightly shameful owner of a cardboard coathanger with Robert Lee's head on it, and is currently in search of a new lucky pub for watching televised games. Perhaps a new lucky team would be an easier option.

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6 Comments on "Too Much, Too Young"

  1. TNFHero says:

    A pretty good summary, Ben. In my view, the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Bostock's 'I fancy a Bentley' stepfather. I do hope the lad pulls himself together, however, as I think Palace still holds a sell-on clause, despite the recent administration!
    Clyne will either stay and develop into one of England's top full-backs, or leave for a hefty sum to bolster Palace's rebuilding plans. Anything else will be a travesty, and a further waste of good English talent.

  2. Simon Jordan, whom I usually have about as much time for as Chris Moyles, had my sympathy when he was apoplectic about the Bostock affair although one always suspected that sod's law would intervene and the kid wouldn't make it anyway.

  3. Lloyd says:

    Two fairly different situations, but the point still stands that players should be careful about flying too close to the sun, too soon.

    Reminds of a little of the two Kyles, who moved to Spurs after a season or so at Bramall Lane. That they've only played a handful of games since moving to WHL between them is another demonstration that gradual development is perhaps the best option. However, I doubt the situation will get any better now that EPL clubs need to have a certain number of 'home-grown' players on their books.

  4. Stanley says:

    One of the most powerful arguments against the 'home-grown' rule is that it will further encourage the stockpiling of young talent by the big clubs.

    Bostock is still young enough to make it, but whether he has the temperament is debatable. He showed signs of special talent while on loan to Brentford last season (typically, he bossed the game against Millwall on his Griffin Park debut), but was sent packing early by Andy Scott for his bad attitude.

  5. Ben says:

    … a bad attitude that those who knew him when he was at Palace made a point of saying he definitely didn't have and wouldn't develop. Sounds like he just needs to knuckle down – whether at Spurs or elsewhere.

    It's certainly going to be interesting to see what the impact of the home-grown rule is – but I suspect you may be right. The biggest clubs are likely to set out to poach players from all around the world at younger and younger ages, so they can get them into their academies early. While hothousing at a top club might be beneficial, there's surely something to be said for staying with a smaller outfit and developing/maturing naturally? And of course, quite apart from the issue of what's best for player development is the issue of whether the rule will bring about more of a level playing field for different clubs – the answer probably being no.

  6. Stanley says:

    You're right, Ben, that his attitude problems may just be a sign of frustration with Spurs. Having said that, players like Steven Caulker and Jon Obika have gone out on loan from White Hart Lane to League 1 and thrived. Bostock shouldn't complain to the press, unless he intends to make the most of the opportunities that do come along.

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