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: olympics.org.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us