Bostock keeps praying for his Olympic dream

As the debate drags on about selecting a British football team at London 2012, one young Spur is happy to keep the faith

Apart from how we are going to be paying for it all, the most vexed question surrounding London 2012 is whether there will be a British football team in the Olympics for the first time in 40 years.

With the Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stubbornly refusing to play ball, fearing their own individual World Cup identity would be compromised despite Fifa's assurances, the current likelihood is that any players picked will be running out to the tune of There'll always be an England.

The last time Great Britain played in the Games, football managers wore trilbies, not tracksuits, but whatever the 2012 composition there will be a team, insists the British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan.

"It is our intention to enter both a men's and women's team in London and we are discussing how best we can achieve that with the home nations, Fifa and the IOC [International Olympic Committee]," Lord Moynihan says. "Really, I can't imagine that anyone in their right mind would want to deprive any young athlete from taking part in the Olympic Games."

Indeed not, which is good news for one Olympic footy hopeful with all the right credentials whose dream has always been to become an Olympian – though he never thought it might materialise on the football field.

John Bostock, the teenage prodigy who captains England's youth team, was a promising track and field athlete before his fleet-footed talents took him in the direction of Tottenham Hotspur via Crystal Palace, creating club history with both as their youngest-ever first-team debutant.

He explains: "I was quite talented at athletics, sprinting and hurdles, long distance, a bit of everything really, even the long jump. The last time I ran 100 metres in a race I was about 14 – I did 11.5sec and they reckoned I could become an international. But my PE teacher told me, 'John, you've got to choose between football and athletics'. It was football that was really in my heart, and my passion won.

"I had hoped that if I stayed in athletics I could be an Olympian – I have always been a great fan of the Olympics, particularly the athletics. So to think now there's a chance I could get into the Games as a footballer, wow, that's something. It would fulfil a dream. It's such a humongous event."

At 17, south London-born Bostock is primed to represent what will be an Under-23 team in 2012, and would be a suitable candidate in terms of both his ability and his clean-cut demeanour. The midfielder is an eternally chirpy chappie, a shining example of the happier face of football, a committed Christian who prays before every game.

He was signed by Palace as a child – "he is not just a good player, he will be a great player," says his former manager Peter Taylor – and was 15 years and 187 days old when he made his Championship debut against Watford in October 2007; and 16 years and 295 days when he came off the bench for his Spurs debut in the Uefa Cup against Dinamo Zagreb this season.

"Palace played a big part in my development," he says. "I've played everywhere apart from in goal but for the majority of my career I've been centre midfield. There were quite a few clubs who were interested in me at Palace but I chose Tottenham because they've got such a great set-up and the manager is always giving youth a chance. It took me a while to adapt to life at Tottenham but when I made my debut it was amazing. It went so quickly I can't even remember most of it.

"When you are my age in football, you need a lot of patience, and it's something I have had to have here, but I know my chance will come for a permanent place." He has been a regular in Tottenham's Under-18 team who won their group in the Premier Academy League before losing in the final to Arsenal, and was also in the squad for the prestigious Bellinzona tournament in Switzerland, defeating Barcelona and Sporting Lisbon.

His dad Michael Brown, a London cabbie, was a decent amateur boxer who fought at lightweight for Brixton ABC around the same time as Frank Bruno and was one fight away from making it to the Olympics himself. Father and son sometimes work out together in the ring.

Religion plays a big part in his life and he says, "there are quite a few of us young Christians in football". He admits he gets some dressing-room ribbing. "But that's no problem. It's all in good spirits." He is a regular churchgoer and says he became serious about his Christianity 18 months ago. "My sister had found the faith and she seemed so happy with life that I thought there must be something in it. So I went to church with her one day and I have been going ever since. Now I think it is very important to have faith."

Does it help his football? "Most definitely. This is a roller-coaster game. You have your ups and downs. Sometimes it can be the best game in the world but when you are down it is difficult and it helps to have that rock, that faith in God. It keeps me stable.

"Praise God, I'm not really injury-prone, just a few niggles now and then, and I love training. I love just working hard and I'm never happier than when the ball's at my feet. Obviously I want to win awards and championships and play at Wembley – the Olympic final would be great – but my main goal is to fulfil my potential. If I can do that, I'll be happy." Or even happier, you might say.

Message from an icon: Bill Slater

It's a little different now from when I played for the Great Britain team in the Olympics in 1952. You had to be an amateur and the top teams then were from what used to be the communist countries in Eastern Europe. They were professionals in all but name. Most were in the military.

The great Hungarians were at their peak with players like [Ferenc] Puskas and [Nandor] Hidegkuti. We didn't meet them because we were eliminated early on 5-3 by Luxembourg, which was a bit embarrassing. I'm not sure how many of them came from there. Some were certainly playing in Italy. But I enjoyed watching the Hungarians, who beat Yugoslavia in the final.

Our manager, Walter Winterbottom, asked me to write about them for the FA News. I warned that this was the shape of football to come but no one seemed to take any notice because they then came here and walloped the full England team 6-3. The way they played had quite an impact on me. It was one of my great football memories.

It really was a GB team with players from all the home nations. One or two went on to play as amateurs or semi-pros for professional clubs, like George Robb at Spurs and Jim Lewis at Chelsea.

When we gathered together we were a bit of a motley crew compared to teams like Hungary. The first time we all met was on the plane out. It was all very friendly though the Games didn't have quite the high status they do now.

It would be a pity not to have an all-British team in London because we haven't been in Olympic football for so long. I am sure that players like John Bostock, if he is selected, will look back on the Olympics, as I do, not just because of the football experience but because there is nothing quite like the camaraderie in the Games village, mixing with athletes of all nations from different sports. It is unique.

Bill Slater, BSc, CBE, now 82, former schoolteacher, played as wing half for Blackpool, appearing in the 1951 Cup Final – the last amateur to do so – Brentford and Wolves, winning 12 caps for England including at the 1958 World Cup. He was Footballer of the Year in 1960. His daughter Barbara, a former Olympic gymnast, is the BBC's new head of sport. He lives in Ealing, London

What do you want, a medal?

Britain last reached the Olympic football finals in Rome in 1960.

No British team has been entered since Munich in 1972, when they were eliminated by Bulgaria in the qualifying rounds.

Britain won gold medals in the 1900, 1908 and 1912 Games but the teams were composed entirely of English players – in 1900, all from one club, Upton Park FC.

No GB team has been selected since the Football Association abolished the distinction between amateurs and professionals in 1974. Olympic rules now permit professionals, with a maximum of three players over the age of 23.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are refusing to allow their players to be considered for a British team, which would have automatic qualification for 2012 as the host nation.

Manchester United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson has had informal talks with London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe about the possibility of managing a GB team in London. Harry Redknapp and Martin O'Neill would be among other contenders, and England's coach Fabio Capello is said to have expressed "a keen interest".

Alan Hubbard

British Olympic Association

The British Olympic Association (BOA), formed in 1905, are the national Olympic committee for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They prepare and lead the nation's finest athletes at the summer, winter and youth Olympic Games, and deliver elite-level support services to Britain's Olympic athletes and their national governing bodies. For further information, go to:

The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on