Dean Parrett and John Bostock examples of lost talent
26 May ~ Last week, I noticed a couple of familiar names playing in end-of-season matches. They were former Tottenham prospects Dean Parrett and John Bostock; Parrett was appearing for Stevenage in a League Two play-off semi-final while Bostock turned out for Oud-Heverlee Leuven of the Belgian second tier. Both are now 23, players who were extremely highly regarded at club and international level as they approached maturity, but ultimately failed to make the grade.
Parrett, who joined Spurs as a 15-year-old from Queens Park Rangers in 2007, was touted for success from an early age. A small player, but with a silky touch and an assuredness on the ball that belied his inexperience, he racked up 26 caps for England at youth level and made his first-team debut, in the UEFA Cup, at 17. In the year he joined Spurs he even featured in the Daily Mail’s infamous England "Team of the Future” which included fellow prodigies Gavin Hoyte and Michael Johnson; players who, similarly faded.
Things started to go wrong for Parrett in a series of loan spells. He was an inconsistent performer in a competitive setting, never making more than ten league starts for any of the five clubs he spent time at between 2009 and 2013. It’s often been said that the last step is the most difficult for young footballers and for Parrett the jump to first-team action at such a young age certainly proved too much. He was released from Spurs two years ago, whereupon he signed for fourth-tier Stevenage, where he has finally found a home.
While Parrett was a highly regarded prospect in his time, the hype around him didn’t come close to matching the level of hysteria surrounding Bostock in the aftermath of his messy switch from Crystal Palace in 2008. Spurs ultimately ended up shelling out £700,000 for the 16-year-old, the fee decided at a tribunal. He remains to this day both Palace’s and Spurs’ youngest ever first-team player. But his relationship with his new club was always strained, with then-manager Harry Redknapp calling his attitude into question after a string of unsuccessful loan spells. As with Parrett, Bostock never managed to truly assert himself in the plans of any Spurs manager he played under.
Like Parrett, Bostock cut ties with the club in summer of 2013 and made the brave decision to join Royal Antwerp in the Belgian second division. The move was, by all accounts, a huge success and under the tutelage of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink he flourished and earned a move to the more upwardly mobile OH Leuven, where he has just enjoyed a productive season. If he can finally harness all that ability then bigger things surely beckon.
The plight of Parrett and Bostock throws into sharp relief the fine line between success and failure for young English players, especially those thrust into the media glare so early. Often what these players need is to feel they are valued. Ryan Mason is proof of this; he too spent years scrapping around the lower leagues in unproductive loan spells but eventually given a chance by Mauricio Pochettino and has grabbed it. Parrett and Bostock might have flourished given the same opportunity. Jack Chatterton