“When I was over there I had to sink or swim, so I learnt to swim.”
Hollywood has before seen the success of a brave and spirited homebody leaving the Shire for new adventures beyond his imagination.
Now, a drastically taller Australian has a story of his own – a tale of guts, self-confidence and continual drive. That imposing young man is Sutherland’s own Tom Glover.
Glover – Australia’s U23 starring goalkeeper – left his humble abode in Bangor, New South Wales to join Tottenham Hotspur’s fabled academy.
Their academy is prestigious both in name and nature with the likes of Harry Kane, David Beckham and Peter Crouch all gracing the pitches at Hotspur Way.
For the past seven years, Glover has been an integral part of the Tottenham youth set-up, training with the first-team following just two years in their system.
After signing a four-year senior contract at 18, Glover went out on loan to Central Coast Mariners and Helsingborg in the Swedish Allsvenskan, all before being released by Spurs last month.
One must expect the unexpected with Tom Glover. Most would feel their world crashing down around them after a breakup with one of Europe’s biggest sides. Not the humble 21-year-old.
“It was more than I expected. It has exceeded the limits I thought I would get to. They’ve just played in a Champions League final and are one of the biggest clubs in the world,” Glover said.
“I have to be realistic with myself, it would’ve been great to continue at Tottenham but I have got to put myself in a first-team environment.”
To understand how unique the Sutherland product is we must trace his journey back to his early life – where he started playing football at the tender age of four.
Tom’s father David revealed goalkeeping was never on his son’s radar in the initial stages of his footballing career.
“At the age of five and six they would take turns in goal and Tom refused. He would sit down in protest and only wanted to be an outfield player. It was very embarrassing for his parents! Only at 10 did he decide to have a crack at goalkeeping,” David said.
It is astonishing to think it took Glover just four years to transform from goalkeeping novice to Tottenham prospect. Like many before him, Tom willed himself to the top through sheer persistence and dedication.
His father recalls a mean competitive streak which developed at an age where most are still hanging from monkey bars and doing cartwheels around the playground.
“When he was in Year 7 at Aquinas [Catholic College] he wanted to try out for the senior soccer team amongst a bunch of 18-year-olds, but the school said he was too young,” Glover’s dad said.
“He hated going down and training with the kids his own age [at local club Sutherland Sharks]. Tom loved to be up training with the older boys.”
At his junior club Glover was coached by ex-Arsenal and Portsmouth goalkeeper Ron Tilsed, who revealed Tom started training with the senior squad at 10 – in particular under first team shot- stopper Nathan Denham.
“I had him training with the first team. A lot of what Nathan did rubbed off on him. Every moment he was like a sponge, he’d be wanting to work harder and harder,” Tilsed said.
“Tommy was a quiet boy as a kid and he’s a very deep [thinking] person. He had a wonderful temperament, nothing phased him, he was unflappable.”
The philosophical nature Glover possesses becomes evident when discussing his time at Spurs.
From the day he stepped through the doors of the academy he was essentially on his own. No parents, no friends, no family.
Despite his talents on the pitch, Glover had to invest in qualities to help him off it.
“[In Bangor] I wouldn’t really go out with my mates, it was all about training and being at home. I dedicated myself to my footy and it was tough moving away. You take things for granted at home and then I was thrown into the deep end, into a different culture and lifestyle,” he said.
“When you’re over there, you have to do things for yourself. Even something like buying your own undies and socks. My parents could’ve posted me stuff but I committed to growing up and doing things for myself. I wanted to grow up not just as a footballer but as a man.
“I grew up a lot quicker than a normal teenage boy should’ve. I’m so thankful for it to be honest, as I see a lot of people our age, relying on their parents. But when I was over there I had to sink or swim, so I learnt to swim.”
Glover’s family remained in Sydney as Tom shot up through the Tottenham ranks, but always left the door ajar for a premature return.
“We always said to Tom ‘You’re only a day away, you can always come home if you’re not happy,’ but he stuck with it and he’s become more mature and self-confident,” David said.
While Glover is known for his ability to keep a clean sheet, his father suggests there are doubts over his ability to make one.
“He still doesn’t make his bed I’m finding out! I just have to shut the door now!”
Despite his burgeoning talent, Glover has not been given the opportunity to close the door on attackers recently, with his loan spell at Helsingborg ending without a single appearance.
Alarm bells tend to ring in circumstances like these but the Bangor local remains unaffected by the trying season.
“I had a close-knit relationship with the boys in Sweden. It’s a beautiful country to be in and it was a new experience for me. You have to learn new currencies, a new environment and adjust quickly,” Glover said.
“The football side was very frustrating but the life experiences were fantastic. I wouldn’t look at it negatively because of the experiences and new friends I have. I always focus on the positives.
“I did everything in my power but things that should’ve gone my way didn’t. I can’t sit there and kick stones because that wont achieve anything. At the end of the day you have to try and remain positive even in a negative situation.”
So whereto for a youngster who has saved shots from Harry Kane, Gareth Bale and worked under Champions League finalist Mauricio Pochettino?
The answer remains as clear as Glover’s life perspective.
“I’ll play anywhere, where I can get an opportunity, that’s all it’s about. I am not driven by money at all, I just want to play and enjoy my footy,” he said.
“There is interest in Australia and clubs in Europe as well, but we have to wait and see. For me it’s all about the opportunities. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll get something concrete and be able to crack on.”
Without a club Glover has already started his redemption story, wasting no time upon his arrival home from Sweden – working out twice a day.
Training aside, Tom is spending much needed time with close friends and family – particularly with fellow goalkeeper Nathan Denham.
The Sutherland goalkeeping coach has known Tom for almost a decade and remains his personal coach, mentor and above all best friend.
There are few who know Glover better than Denham, who represented Central Coast in the U21’s before a stellar career in the National Premier Leagues NSW.
“I think Tom is ready to explode on the scene, it’s just about being in a fruitful environment where he’s backed in. Whether it be in Australia or somewhere in Europe, I think you’ll see a goalkeeper capable of ending up back at a big club like Spurs as a number one, after a season or two under his belt,” Denham said.
After already starring for the Young Socceroos, it seems whichever club lands Glover will not only be receiving a player of experience and talent, but one of high-character and maturity beyond his years.
“I always say to everyone I’m just Tom from Bangor, I am no different to anyone else except that I play football.”
It seems the local lad from Southern Sydney may well have his own Hollywood renaissance story in the making.
By Patrick Djordjevic