Hans Christian Andersen writes that “to travel is to live”, and if so, John Bostock has done enough living to fill more than a few lifetimes. Bostock was viewed as something of a prodigy when he made his Crystal Palace debut in 2007 at the tender age of 15, and soon courted interest from Tottenham Hotspur. Of course, Bostock was unlikely to break into the first team this early in his career, and as such he was loaned out to Brentford, Hull City, Sheffield Wednesday and Swindon Town.
Unfortunately, these loan spells failed to imbue Bostock with the experience and quality necessary to establish himself at Spurs, and after a final loan spell at Toronto FC he was released in 2013. Bostock had once been a talent of immense promise but was now surplus to requirements, a fall from grace that might have crushed weaker characters. However, Bostock showed perseverance, resolving to rebuild his career abroad by signing for Royal Antwerp in the Belgian 2nd division.
This move was a success and Bostock soon became a crucial creative outlet, with 16 assists earning him a move to OH Leuven in 2014. At Leuven Bostock added goals to his game, scoring 13 and assisting 19 in his final season, firing the club to promotion and earning the player of the year award, as well as a move to Ligue 2 side RC Lens.
Bostock flourished in France, earning another player of the year award in 2017, and after a brief sojourn at Bursaspor in Turkey’s top flight, Bostock signed for Toulouse in Ligue 1. After a sprawling 5-year odyssey, Bostock had achieved what must have seemed impossible after his release from Spurs. Finally, 11 years after making his debut for Crystal Palace, his journey had concluded, and he had at last re-established himself in one of Europe’s most illustrious leagues.
Stasis has long been the norm in British football, with most abiding by an unspoken rule that sees footballers from these shores stay put, even at the detriment of their careers. Yet, there seems to be an increasing amount of young, brave pioneers seeking different climes in an effort to catalyse success, something that must be commended. If these players ever become disillusioned and question whether they will reap the rewards of their efforts, they only have to look to John Bostock to see that, however long and hard the road might be, leaving home behind can rejuvenate a career that otherwise might have stagnated.