John Bostock ready to truly launch his Doncaster Rovers career after initial stumbling blocks
Just when he thought he would have the ideal launchpad for his Doncaster Rovers career, Covid-19 had other ideas for John Bostock.
On signing for the club in January, Bostock was thrust straight into action despite having not had a club since leaving Toulouse in France four months earlier and training largely by himself on park pitches, as documented in his fascinating YouTube series.
Injuries were inevitable and prevented him from ever really hitting his stride, particularly as Rovers’ promising season declined dramatically from February onwards.
So it was understandable that Bostock had plenty of hopes for this summer, to finally get the opportunity for intense group work which would prepare him to hit the ground running under new boss Richie Wellens.
After being forced into self-isolation along with the majority of the club’s senior players at the start of the third week of training, he then contracted Covid-19 himself.
The virus hit the 29-year-old hard and he was far from clear of the symptoms at the end of the typical isolation period.
And it left him again with plenty of catching up to do.
“It wasn’t nice. It hit me for six and it wasn’t pleasant,” Bostock told the Free Press.
“With the few years that I’ve had previously, I just wanted a pre-season.
“I wanted a proper pre-season to get the minutes in and get the games in and I knew it would really help.
“But unfortunately I couldn’t. I was out for two and a half weeks and then thrown straight back in.
“I played that friendly game against Watford straight away after coming back and that was really tough.
“But it’s a long season, I’ll get fitter and so will the boys and we’ll get better.”
Being thrown into action straight away last season was something Bostock would not have had any other way.
It was clear however that he was not up to speed as he showed only flashes of the undoubted quality he can bring to the middle of the park - something he has shown to a much greater degree already in this young season.
He maintained a level head throughout those first few tricky months, knowing that more minutes on the pitch would equal greater sharpness.
“Prior to signing for Rovers I was without a club for four and a half months,” he said.
“I had no pre-season and it was just get up and go, which I loved.
“I loved playing, even though there were no fans, I really enjoyed it, first under Darren Moore and then under Andy Butler.
“It was tough. The season didn’t finish the way we wanted it to but I loved playing.
“I didn’t feel crazy pressure or ‘Bostock’s going to do this or that.’
“I just felt I had a role to play and I was going to do it to the best of my ability. Hopefully I could improve players around me and help the team get the results.
“I didn’t feel pressure. I’ve been in the game a long time and I know I wasn’t going to come in after not having a club for four months and training alone in parks and be on fire.
“At times I showed some good stuff and others there were areas I could improve on.
“This season now, having a key role to play hopefully, I can do my best for the team.”
Though there was uncertainty about his future in the summer, Bostock has found a place in Richie Wellens’ midfield and in a side that thrives on technical quality.
His performance in last weekend’s defeat at Sheffield Wednesday demonstrated how important the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder can be in Rovers’ ability to control football matches.
And he is enjoying every minute.
“Richie Wellens has really got us playing the way I like to play and hopefully we can build something special,” Bostock said.
“We’ll get there.
“It’s not just me. We have a lot of players who are real ball players that can unlock or unpick teams quickly.
“We’ll keep working on it. It’s no secret.
“We’ll keep drilling it, we’ll keep working on it and hopefully we’ll give the fans something to sing about.”
Bostock has been through plenty in his career having burst onto the scene at Crystal Palace as a 15-year-old with all the attention that brought.
It has given him plenty of wisdom to pass on, and he could be seen doing that with Rovers new boy Ethan Galbraith, about whom there has been plenty of buzz at his parent club Manchester United.
As Rovers took to the field for the second half in front of almost 25,000 fans at Hillsborough, Bostock had his arm around the youngster, giving him pieces of advice.
“He came in the day before, hardly trained and then was thrust straight into this experience,” Bostock said.
“I just put myself in his shoes, thinking I’ve been there before when I’ve been thrown in the deep end.
“But he took to it like a duck to water.
“At the same time, partnerships are key and it’s my job to make him feel as comfortable as possible.
“Hopefully together, or whoever is in there, we can run midfields and control things.
“The more we can do that the more we will get results.
Last weekend took Bostock back to one of the places where he had a loan spell early in his career.
There was much hype about the midfielder as a teenager and it was a tough period for him as he attempted to find his feet in the senior game under such an intense spotlight.
He admitted it was good to be back on former stomping grounds but also to have the enjoyment factor in play this time around.
“It was a tough loan here under Gary Megson, playing on the wing,” he said.
“It’s been a long journey since then. It’s nice to be back with fans in the stadium.
“I just love football.
“I love playing, getting on the ball, competing. I love playing on Saturdays and the whole buzz around the game.
“It’s been an amazing journey but it’s not finished yet so we’ll see.”