3 February ~ Spurs right-back Kyle Naughton recently joined Middlesbrough on loan for the remainder of the season – this after moving to White Hart Lane from Sheffield United in July 2009 in a joint deal with Kyle Walker that was worth a reported £10 million. Walker, in turn, was immediately loaned back to Sheffield United. The hurried shift between clubs in such a short space of time must have a significantly disorientating effect on young footballers. As seemed to be the case with John Bostock, another of Spurs’ prodigies pinched from the Championship, when I saw him play on loan for Brentord against Charlton Athletic at a muddy Griffin Park in December.
Bostock made his Crystal Palace debut at the age of 15 years and 287 days, making him Palace’s youngest ever player. News of his prodigious talent soon spread and there were even reports of interest from Barcelona. Bostock’s controversial move to White Hart Lane in July 2008, eventually decided by a tribunal after the two clubs bitterly failed to negotiate a fee, infuriated Palace owner Simon Jordan to the extent that he even threatened to cancel Bostock's father's season ticket.
With the ball thrashed breathlessly from end to end at Griffin Park, Bostock was, for the majority of this contest, a rather bemused spectator. Indeed, isolation on the wing among unfamiliar team-mates must lead the mind to wander somewhat and at times it did seem that he was lost in thought, far, far away from the mud-splattered battle around him. From Bostock’s hesitant and rather meandering movements after the ball, one could not help but wonder if he really believed it was his battle too; much rather “theirs”.
Either way, Bostock’s first touch of the ball came a good 15 minutes into the game, courtesy of a free-kick on the left flank. Across he glided, shirt out yet immaculate and utterly inscrutable. With minimal backlift, the free-kick was swung over; the heavy, mud-encrusted ball curled tantalising between the onrushing Charlton keeper Rob Elliot and Brentford’s airborne attackers.
It was a single moment of brilliance and it summed up Bostock’s overall afternoon. Momentary flashes of a higher, more refined technique, glimpsed by a perfectly weighted first-time ball, an instant single touch control of a speeding overhit pass, an almost uninterested shimmy to leave the Charlton left-back momentarily befuddled. Just moments, fragments of brittle light in the misty December gloom.
Deprived of the ball and unable to truly involve himself in the hurly-burly nature of the contest, Bostock was substituted after just 64 minutes, replaced by the more willing, if limited Sam Saunders. Ambling apathetically over to the sidelines he was loudly informed by Charlton’s raucous travelling support that he would “never play for Tottenham”. As he sat on the bench, staring out on the field, I wondered if he could hear the taunts of the Charlton fans or if he even cared. He probably just wanted to go home, wherever that is. John Porter