Home Football Manager 2023 Football Manager 2023 Guides Wonderkids 2009: Where Are They Now?

Wonderkids 2009: Where Are They Now?

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Release and Features

The 2009 incarnation of the game was released in November of 2008 and as with the 2007 version, this edition introduced a plethora of changes and upgrades. 3D Match Engine a key addition, along with completely reworked finance system, player ratings now came in decimal points, press conferences allowed for you to build rapport with journalists and there was also increased interaction between you and your assistant manager.
Football Manager 2009 was like all the other versions in that it was critically acclaimed and won a number of awards for its sales figures, further establishing itself as the market leader in Football Managment Simulation.

Like all the other versions, Football Manager 2009 also had a number of players under the age of 20 deemed future world beaters, or Wonderkids. Those that have followed the series so far will know the format, as many wonderkids there on the FM Databases, I can only write about those I’ve had experienced in the game myself, before evaluating if they’ve lived up to the tag in reality.

With the 2009 version and beyond we’ll start encountering players that for the most part are in the midst of their prime years, 25-28 years old, thus it’s easy to establish credibility. As the series goes on, this will become more difficult as the prospects become younger and younger and thus have plenty of playing years left to establish that credibility.

Sit back, grab a coffee and enjoy as I explore the Virtual and Reality of two Wonderkids I used in my years as a Bedroom Manager of Reading F.C (The only team I played with on this edition of the game, beating Sir Alex and Wenger as longest serving Premier League Manager)

One Club Man

Starting life in a division outside the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A present a number of challenges. It’s not something I’m adverse too, I’ve taken teams like Basingstoke Town to Champions League Finals, but you need to invest a lot of time into doing so. As I’ve got older (I say older, at the time of playing FM09 I was 21) I’ve had a lot less time to spend on projects like Non-League Legend, so hats off to people like Lollujo who provide me with the opportunity to follow their journey in doing just that. My time playing on FM from this point onwards then were spent at clubs I could and still can pick-up and play, in 2008/09 that club was Reading F.C.

Relegated from the Premier League the season previous, suffering from second season syndrome, having finished 8th in The Premier League the year before that, just 1pt outside European Football, their best players were stripped from them.

Most notable of all Steve Sidwell ending up at Chelsea (I still scratch my head about that to this day). Nicky Shorey too landed himself a few England Caps and moved to Aston Villa in a bid to further establish himself as a Premier League and International grade player.

Relegated and a rebuild required, this presented the perfect combination of pick up and play and challenging gameplay. I tasked myself with establishing Reading as a Premier League team within 5 seasons and work from there.

My first order of business was securing talent that could plug the gaps Reading were so obviously struggling to replace, it just so happened that Tottenham Hotspur had just signed a Wonderkid Left Back and Centre Midfielder.

Loan Rangers

When starting life in the lower divisions, often the Loan market is the best place to pick up superstar talent that otherwise would not move down a division if on a permanent basis. Two players, I was able to sign from Spurs to kick start my rebuild job were Gareth Bale and John Bostock.

The former had signed for Spurs from Southampton the year previous and was part of the same Saints squad that contained Theo Walcott, who had also made the switch to North London the season before Bale.

The latter a Crystal Palace youth prospect who had made an impact at the start of the 07/08 season, debuting aged 15 years old. Spurs would announce the signing the following May, with the transfer fee of £700,000 decided by a tribunal.

Both players would slot straight into my first team, playing pretty much all 55 games across all competitions, resulting in Bale winning Club Player of the Year and Bostock runner-up as they dazzled Championship opposition, all the way to a 3rd place finish in the league. Unfortunately, it did not result in promotion via the playoffs, much like in real life, I was defeated at the Semi-Final stage by Roy Keane’s Ipswich.

I was unsuccessful also in getting Bale back for a second season, as he jumped straight into Spurs first team and didn’t leave it for nearly a decade, fully establishing himself as a first-class talent in the Premier League and Champions League before moving onto Inter Milan where he would end his career after another 8 seasons as the first choice Left Back.

Bostock did come back for another year, further cementing his place amongst FM Wonderkids with a 20 goal season from Centre Midfield and providing 15 assists also. His efforts would be rewarded with a range of awards, Young Player, Player Player and Club Player of The Year amongst a Championship Winners Medal.
John Bostock would become the lynchpin of my midfield, after I was able to agree to a permanent transfer the next summer, using the majority of my transfer budget to do so.

It would prove to be a masterstroke as Bostock would remain in my Reading squad until retirement at the end of the 2027/28 season aged 36. He would become club captain aged 23 and keep hold of the armband for 10 years, winning the FA Cup twice, the Premier League twice, the Championship again (yes I got relegated) and The League Cup 3 times. Unfortunately, the furthest he ever got in the Champions League was a Quarterfinal defeat to Barcelona, a high point of a competition I would struggle to get out of the groups most years I made it in.

Post-retirement, I offered John a coaching role and the u18s manager role and at the time of completion of the save he’d progressed and became my assistant manager.

Bostock’s Travels

The reality for the both of my Loan Stars offers a very different version of events. Not least for John Bostock.

Bostock would start out as Spurs youngest ever player, appearing as a substitute in a Europa League game (UEFA Cup) vs Dinamo Zagreb, beating Ally Dick by a mere 6 days, aged 16 years and 295 days. John would make a further two appearances in the same competition later in the season, unbelievably he wouldn’t make another appearance for Spurs for another three years, which would also be his last in The FA Cup vs Cheltenham Town.

The Virtual world called it about right then, as Bostock would embark on a number of loans, in a bid to develop his skills and gain exposure to first-team football. Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, but surely you would have expected Bostock to return to Spurs a fully fledged Centre Midfielder, ready to stake his claim as a top-class player.
It wasn’t to be, several loans to Championship Clubs and Toronto FC of The MLS would only amount to a combined 42 League Games across 5 years.

Bostock would find himself released by Spurs in 2013 where he decided a venture into European Football would be best, he was right. A season at Royal Antwerp of the Belgian Second Division allowed for his first full competitive season of 31 League Games providing 16 assists and just missing out on Promotion to the Belgian Pro-League.

John would move onto fellow Belgian 2nd Division outfit OH Leuven, who had just been relegated from the Pro-League. Bostock would again flourish, scoring 13 times and 19 assists in a season that saw OHL immediately return to the Pro-League and Bostock winning the Proximus Player of the Year Award.
Bostock would only manage 5 goals in his second year at OHL in The Pro-League, playing 20 times, had he found his level and was that level in the 2nd tier?

A move to RC Lens in the French Ligue Two would follow and again he would be afforded regular playing time, on the team sheet 42 times between August 2016 and January 2018 before a Winter Transfer move to Bursaspor in Turkeys Super Lig, his first foray into top flight football in nearly 3 years and with a team that often reaches the later rounds of qualifying for European competition.

So far Bostock has made 6 appearances and with 4 games left to Bursaspor look like missing out on a Euro Qualifier birth this season, but the important thing is John is playing top-flight football for one of it’s more established clubs once again, the next season or two will really tell us all we know about whether Bostock is able to live up to his Wonderkid status.

Struggling Left Back to Welsh Wing Wizard

Gareth Bale would be the antithesis of Bostock’s career in reality, although it didn’t get off to a great start. Bale would score three in four games before being on the end of a Fabrice Muamba tackle, tearing ligaments in his ankle, triggering an almost 2-year stint on and off the sidelines.

Spurs insistence in not wanting to rush Bale back into the side would result in an unwanted record, for every start and sub appearance over that period of time Bale wouldn’t be on the winning side once, 24 games in total, this didn’t deter Tottenham offering Gareth a new 4-year deal. Daniel Commoli citing Bales excellent attitude during his recovery the reason behind the new deal.

2009 brought renewed hope that Bale would finally secure a first-team birth and end up on the winning side for the first time in 24 attempts. June 2009 would bring yet more bad news and a fresh injury, this time the knee. A missed pre-season and surgery later, Bale would re-appear for Spurs in the 85th Minute in a 5-0 win over Burnley, the first time he’d been involved in a Premier League Win.
A short battle with incumbent Benoit Assou-Ekotto, injury again ending the competition for the Left Back position, only this time it was Benoit who was sidelined.

It’s fair to say Bale hasn’t looked back since, Man of the Match performances in the FA cup and back to back winning goals against Arsenal and Chelsea firmly established him as Spurs first choice, but it was becoming ever apparent that Left Back may not be his best position.

Two goals against Stoke at the beginning of the 2010/11 Season, one of which a stunning volley, followed by four assists in a 4-0  of Swiss side Young Boys in The Champions League Qualifier. The return of Assou-Ekotto presented then manager Harry Redknapp with a happy headache, how do you fit two obviously top class Left Backs into your first team?

You push one further upfield into Left Wing of course, it makes perfect sense. Bale relished the opportunity and flourished, scoring a hat-trick against Inter Milan and announcing himself to the world as a global talent, although Spurs lost 4-3 on the night, the return leg would offer Bale the chance again to show his worth against one of Europe’s top teams. Gareth would finish the game with two assists in a 3-1 win, helping Tottenham pip Inter to the top spot in their group, progressing to the knockout stages.

Bale has gone from strength to strength ever since, a talismanic season in which Bale scored 24 goals and seven assists across the Premier League and Champions League, proceeded a record-breaking transfer to Real Madrid in 2013. The first deal to exceed 100 Million Euro, beating the fee paid for Ronaldo in 2009.

Four and half years later, Bale can claim 77 goals and 45 assists in La Liga and Champions League. Winning the latter three times, on top of the 2016 La Liga title, Two World Club Cups, Two UEFA Super Cups and a Copa Del Rey.

Gareth Bale has more than justified his Wonderkid status and at just 28 years old has several seasons left yet to further establish himself as one of the greats of the game.

Follow me on Twitter @DarrenButler87 and @FMDaily_ for more FM Stories, Guides and Tactics.

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