ARMY LIFE HAD MA­JOR IM­PACT ON TOM

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By John Lyons

ON A week­end when peo­ple in this coun­try re­mem­ber those who have given their lives in the line of duty, it prob­a­bly res­onates with Bris­tol Rovers de­fender Tom Broad­bent more than most.

The 25-year-old, who joined Rovers in the sum­mer, spent six years in the army af­ter join­ing at the age of 19. He served in Afghanistan in 2014 and, on one oc­ca­sion, the ar­moured ve­hi­cle in which he was trav­el­ling came un­der en­emy fire.

For­tu­nately, the Lance Bom­bardier lived to tell the tale and con­tin­ued in the army for three more years be­fore leav­ing and try­ing to earn a shot play­ing pro­fes­sional foot­ball.

And what­ever he goes on to achieve play­ing foot­ball, he will al­ways be grate­ful to the role that the army played in his life. It was af­ter time work­ing in Sains­bury’s on the hot food counter (“I hated it) and as a labourer that Broad­bent de­cided to join the ser­vices.

“I just went for it and it served me well,” he said. “I wasn’t dis­ci­plined at all (be­fore join­ing the army) and it sorted me out a lot. I was go­ing out and get­ting into trou­ble.

“Join­ing the army gave me a sense of di­rec­tion – I felt I was achiev­ing some­thing with my life.”

While some peo­ple may have wanted to avoid a post­ing to Afghanistan, Broad­bent wasn’t one of them.

Buzzing

“I was buzzing, well happy, I wanted to go,” he said. “I had been in the army for two years be­fore I went and I was fresh out of train­ing.

“You want to go on tour and get medals, and all my mates were go­ing with me. At the back of my mind, I was think­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to war tech­ni­cally’ but I was happy to be go­ing. “The tour wasn’t too dan­ger­ous, not as bad as other peo­ple had had in the past.” Broad­bent, who also spent time serv­ing on As­cen­sion Is­land, had played Non-League foot­ball for the likes of Farn­bor­ough and Hayes & Yead­ing while serv­ing in the army, though com­bin­ing the two was dif­fi­cult and he would of­ten be un­avail­able for matches. None­the­less, his rep­u­ta­tion in foot­ball cir­cles was grow­ing. “I knew I was get­ting a bit of in­ter­est,” he said. “I took a gam­ble and signed off from the army – and it paid off.” A trial with Bris­tol Rovers this sum­mer ul­ti­mately paved the way for the 6ft 3ins cen­tre-back to land a pro con­tract and, pre­week­end, he had al­ready notched up 11 ap­pear­ances for the Pi­rates.

It’s been an­other mem­o­rable ad­ven­ture and the de­fender is ea­ger to keep on tak­ing steps for­ward in his new ca­reer.

He added: “When I was out there in Afghanistan a few years ago, I would never have dreamt I would be here in a few years’ time. Even a few months ago I was look­ing at prob­a­bly play­ing Con­fer­ence South or Con­fer­ence Pre­mier. It’s bril­liant.

Bril­liant

“I’ve done nor­mal jobs and I’ve had to work hard in the past. Now I’m do­ing a job I have al­ways wanted to do. It’s my dream job, but now it’s time to work hard again and have a good ca­reer.”

Af­ter all he’s al­ready been through in his young life, few would bet against him.

EFL spon­sor Sky Bet are sup­port­ing The Royal Bri­tish Le­gion’s Poppy Ap­peal with an auc­tion of signed shirts from clubs in the EFL. To sign up for an alert when your club’s shirts go live, visit: https://m.sky­bet.com/cam­paign/SkyBetPop­pyAuc­tion

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

GET­TING STUCK IN: Bris­tol Rovers’ Tom Broad­bent tack­les Notts County’s Jon Stead in the FA Cup last week­end

TIME TO THINK: Tom Broad­bent

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