ARMY LIFE HAD MAJOR IMPACT ON TOM
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.
“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.
“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.
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GETTING STUCK IN: Bristol Rovers’ Tom Broadbent tackles Notts County’s Jon Stead in the FA Cup last weekend
TIME TO THINK: Tom Broadbent