TORONTO – Though he's just 21 years of age, Toronto FC midfielder John Bostock feels quite a bit older in football years.
Since signing with English side Crystal Palace as a teenager, the Camberwell, England native has played for Brentford, Hull City, Sheffield Wednesday and Swindon Town in the United Kingdom, captained England at the youth level and became the youngest player in Tottenham history to play for Spurs thanks to a UEFA Cup appearance against Dynamo Zagreb in 2008 at the age of 16 years and 295 days.
With years of professional football in England behind him, Bostock is now aiming to fulfill his potential as a key part of a resurgent Toronto FC under head coach Ryan Nelsen.
“Sometimes when I tell people that I am 21 or when they find out, they are quite surprised. They think I am 24 or 25,” Bostock told MLSsoccer.com. “I realize that my name has been around for a little while, so with that comes a suggestion that I am older. But I am still young and I am working on my trade. I’m far from the finished article, so I just want to continue to develop.”
According to Bostock, he is hoping that being away from the spotlight – and various distractions – in England will enable him to focus solely on his performances on the pitch and his work on the training ground.
“There are a lot of people that are quick to judge, especially when you have been a high-profile prospect and had a lot of pressure at such a young age. Things like people expecting you to make your England [national team] debut before you are 20 and stuff like that,” Bostock said. “There is a lot of pressure [in England], so it is good for me to get away from that in order for me to be able to just focus on my soccer. I’m looking forward to fulfilling my potential here and working hard each and every week.”
With five games played for Toronto so far, the technically gifted midfielder has shown flashes of brilliant play already, but he was quick to admit that his move across the pond has been an adjustment.
“I’m really enjoying my time out here. I’ve played a majority of the minutes in most of the games and I’m really happy to play any role on the team,” Bostock said. “It’s a new experience for me. It’s a new country, a new league and a new group of players. For me, it is a big challenge.”
In addition to finding his feet in a new environment, Bostock is also contending with a move out wide.
“I’m playing a new position as well. I’m playing on the wing. For me, I’m used to attacking from central and getting opportunities from a central position. From out wide, it is difficult to find the yards to find the room to shoot and to come in and hurt the 'keeper,” Bostock said. “I’m working on it every day in training. I’m working on getting crosses in, as well as my shooting and my finishing.”
While he is going through a period of adjustment, Bostock acknowledged that the fact that he isn’t the only Englishman to feature at Toronto FC has made his transition to North American soccer a more comfortable one.
“I think it has helped,” Bostock said of having four of his countrymen at TFC. “We come from a similar place and have now come over here to work hard and to enjoy our football and to make a difference. It is nice to have an English contingent over here.”