Stolen crystal in the Bost place under Harry

TOTTENHAM'S youngest ever player has certainly shot off the mark in his football career, but that has merely left him streets ahead in terms of pressure. Plenty of emerging talents have discovered that their exciting ability has been tainted...

By Ben Pearce

TOTTENHAM'S youngest ever player has certainly shot off the mark in his football career, but that has merely left him streets ahead in terms of pressure.

Plenty of emerging talents have discovered that their exciting ability has been tainted by expectation.

But few have caused the national furore that Bostock effected last summer, when a tribunal was needed to negotiate his infamous transfer from Crystal Palace to Spurs.

The Lilywhites beat off competition from Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona to sign the midfielder, and Chelsea had bid �900,000 bid when the player was just 14 years old.

Tottenham's then sporting director Damien Comolli moved quickly to hand Bostock a five-year professional contract last July, the moment his schoolboy deal at Selhurst Park expired.

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A bitter Palace chairman Simon Jordan demanded �5million compensation for "the best player in his position in Europe".

But with no obligation to pay a formal transfer fee for the youngster, Spurs offered significantly less, and Jordan was distraught when the tribunal decided on an initial payment of �700,000, rising to �1.25m.

The chairman condemned the saga as a hammer blow for youth development in England, and Bostock became an unwitting icon for the perceived injustice of top clubs stealing the emerging talent from the divisions below.

"Obviously when I moved to Tottenham it was difficult with all the talk going on, but when I come here I just concentrate on my football," Bostock told Ham&High Sport. "When you step onto that pitch you're in a different zone, so I just focus on getting the ball and playing well."

The former England Under-17 captain became Palace's youngest ever player when he made his league debut against Watford in October 2007, playing the final 20 minutes in a 2-0 home defeat.

The following week he also became the youngest Eagle to start a game, aged 15 years and 295 days, against Cardiff at Ninian Park, one of five first-team appearances for Palace.

Exactly a year later, on November 6 2008, Bostock then became Spurs' youngest ever player as he came on against Dinamo Zagreb in the Uefa Cup - at 16 years and 295 days, he was six days younger than the previous record-holder, Ally Dick in 1982.

But, apart from brief substitute appearances in weakened sides against Shakhtar Donetsk later in the same competition, Bostock quickly disappeared from view.

However, the 17-year-old has been given a chance in pre-season as Redknapp runs his eye over the club's most promising youngsters.

The message from the manager is simple - "I would love to play young players but they have to be good enough, and at the moment we haven't got too many who have shown me they're good enough," he said.

Danny Rose, Jake Livermore and Jonathan Obika have all played their part in the warm-up campaign. And, having made substitute showings against both Barcelona and Celtic in the Wembley Cup, Bostock was given a full 90 minutes in Sunday's 2-0 defeat against South China in Hong Kong.

Now he is hoping to stay with the first-team squad when competitive action resumes, and prove that his career has progressed since his controverisal move across London.

"At Palace I played a few times, but I understand that Tottenham is a massive club," said Bostock. "I'm just working on my game every day and hopefully I'll be ready to take that step.

"I've been involved in pre-season and I've trained with the first team a few times, and to play at Wembley was an amazing feeling.

"No-one's place is for sure in the first team so I just want to keep working hard and hopefully I can cement my place in that squad. I talk to Huds [Huddlestone] a lot, and Azza [Lennon) and Jermaine Jenas. They're all top-draw players and I talk to all of them."

Spurs' established players admit that Tottenham are likely to profit from their failure to qualify for Europe at the end of last season, which will allow them to concentrate on the league.

But Bostock concedes that the situation is likely to dent his first-team ambitions, with every extra competition making Redknapp more likely to rotate his squad and involve his younger players.

"Obviously quite a few of us made our debuts in the Uefa Cup, so the fact we haven't got that this year is going to make it harder to make it into the first team," said Bostock, "but I believe that if we're good enough we might still get a shot, maybe in the Carling Cup, FA Cup or even the Premier League.

"We're all hungry to play in the first team because we haven't really achieved that yet. There's a lot of good players in England who don't have the manager who'll give them a chance, so the fact that I'm playing under Harry Redknapp is an honour, because I know if I work hard and train hard and if I'm good enough I'll get my chance to play.