While he recovers from an ankle injury, the ex-Crystal Palace prodigy has turned to promoting the religion which has seen him through tough times
While he recovers from a long-term ankle injury having had an operation in late November, former wonderkid John Bostock has focused on the other great influence on his life – religion.
Bostock is the “founder and leader” of the Ballers In God podcast, where he and other players discuss their faith, and its impact on their careers.
In the first episode, Bostock reveals that he was ready to give up football and become a Christian minister after being released from Spurs. However, it was his faith which kept him in the game.
He says: “I gave my life to Jesus when I was 16. I didnt grow up in a Christian household. My whole life was built upon me as a footballer.
“But when I came to know Jesus, I realised Im actually a Christian who plays football, and so my gift was to be used in a way that glorified God rather than myself.
“God took me on a journey outside my comfort zone. If a man belongs to God, he will be broken into a million pieces, and the breaking is not comfortable!
“I left Spurs when I was 21, and my confidence was so low. I said to the Lord, If you want me to finish football and become a full time minister, I will.
“But I felt the Lords spirit come to me and say, Youre ready – you were ready to give up the thing you love most, youre ready.”
It is notable how Bostock – who is now 30 and playing for English third-tier strugglers Doncaster Rovers – found religion at the age of 16, as that was when he found himself at the centre of one of footballs most turbulent transfers this century.
Successful ankle operation. The road to recovery starts now. The journey of an athlete is one of incredible highs and serious lows. The Lord never promised the journey would be easy, but He did promise to be with me through it all. The marathon continues #john1633 pic.twitter.com/18AZCyS1pl
Bostock made his professional debut aged 15 for Crystal Palace after coming through their academy, but had been on the radar of Europes elite as a generational talent for some time.
A powerful and skilful central midfielder, he was offered a 10-year contract by Barcelona the year before his debut.
“You name the club, I had interest from them,” Bostock told BBC Sport in November 2020. “Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool – the whos who of European football.
“When I was 14, Barcelona offered me a 10-year contract. Ronaldinho was my favourite player at the time so they sent me a signed poster from him. Ive still got it at my house in London. It said: To John from Ronaldinho.
“I saw Ronaldinho win these trophies and I just thought I want to be that guy. I pinned my identity on that and I thought if I didn’t achieve that, I was a failure.”
In 2008, Bostock chose to stay in London as he signed for Tottenham Hotspur for £700,000 ($950,000).
Unfortunately for him, the circumstances surrounding the move remain what he is most remembered for some 14 years later.
First, Spurs announced the completed deal on their website, complete with a quote from Bostock saying “I am definitely ready to make this move”, only for it to be denied by Palace.
After weeks of negotiations, the fee was eventually set by tribunal.
However, then-Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan was furious at such a low price for a player then seen as the future of English football, lashing out at Spurs, Bostocks stepfather, and even the teenager himself by saying Bostock was no longer welcome at Selhurst Park, even as a fan.
My focus is fixed on the one who knows it allHebrews 12:2 pic.twitter.com/r52l7wYuIw
“I dont know why Tottenham want to play silly buggers and put out such an antagonistic statement but thats why we responded,” said Jordan.
“He (Brown) looked me in the eye on three occasions and categorically assured me that the boy wanted to stay at Palace.
“The man is a barefaced liar. Its all about money, which is pitiful when it reaches the level of a 16-year-old.
“If John had wanted to join Tottenham, then fair enough, just say so. Why did we have to go through the whole charade of his step-fathers litany of lies?
“They have renewed their tickets for next season but I will be refunding them and sending them back.”
Bostock has since made amends with Palace, and was present at the opening of their new academy last year. However, his life didnt get any easier once he arrived at Tottenham.
Having been on the first team pathway at Palace, his progress was stalled at Spurs by the presence of far more talent in midfield, including future Ballon DOr winner Luka Modric.
He played only four games for Spurs, none of them in the Premier League, and spent five spells on loan including a stint at Toronto FC.
His loan spells were not without success.
His first stint away from Tottenham was at Brentford, then of League One, in 2009.
Aged just 17, Bostock netted twice on his debut for the Bees against Millwall, the first – his maiden professional goal – a powerful left-footed finish after some sleek individual skill; the second was even more striking, direct from a corner.
“I saw the keeper off his line and went for it!”, he told The Athletic last year. “I think it was a bit windy that day. I pride myself on my delivery from free kicks and corners.
“I’d actually scored from a corner once before – in a reserve game for Tottenham against Chelsea. I haven’t done it since, but there are plenty more goalkeepers to catch out and try to embarrass.”
Having got used to the wonderkid label in his time at Palace, Bostock found being stuck behind multiple internationals at Spurs frustrating.
He said in July 2010, before being shipped on loan to Hull: “Bits and pieces here and there is not really enough. We look at the foreign contingent over here and its blocking us. Its frustrating – and its especially hard when you dont feel like you are given a chance.
“Clubs are spending millions on foreigners and will want to play them. Its hard because we are left waiting until we are 21 or 22 to play first-team football.”
After making three appearances for Spurs in their 2008 UEFA Cup campaign – becoming their youngest ever player in the process, a record he held for more than a decade until Dane Scarlett and later Alfie Devine surpassed him – he had to wait for his fourth and final Tottenham match, which came against Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup in January 2012.
Eventually, Bostock was released by Spurs in summer 2013, but he managed to rebuild his career in the Belgian second division with Royal Antwerp and OH Leuven, winning league player of the season with the latter in 2015-16 for a promotion campaign in which he scored 13 goals and provided 19 assists.
After spells in France and Turkey, he finished an eight-year exile from England with a permanent 18-month deal at Donny, his 14th professional club.
With his deal expiring in the summer and Rovers seemingly on the fast track to League Two, a 15th is a distinct possibility.
Now aged 30, Bostock can look back on a career already filled with more incident than most – but with his outlook on football so heavily influenced by his faith, it seems he will take whatever comes next in his stride.