Rejected Oastler seeking play-off glory

Joe Oastler celebrates Torquay's play-off semi-final victory
Joe Oastler celebrates Torquay's play-off semi-final victory
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Joe Oastler’s footballing dreams were shattered when he was shown the door by Pompey.

Three years on he is set to tread the famous Old Trafford turf in the League Two play-off final.

It has been a remarkable fall and rise for the midfielder from Milton who is nowadays representing Torquay.

Oastler was part of the Blues age-group which contained future first-teamers Joel Ward and Matt Ritchie.

The trio rose through the Fratton ranks together from the age of eight until 18.

But while Ward and Ritchie were handed professional contracts, Oastler was released by then director of youth operations Paul Hart in the summer of 2008.

After impressing at exit trials, he was subsequently signed by QPR and went on to make two appearances for the club.

But it has been on loan at Torquay this season where the 20-year-old’s career has really lifted off.

Oastler has made 30 appearances for Paul Buckle’s side, helping them into the League Two play-off final.

On Saturday they will take on Stevenage at the Theatre of Dreams for a place in League One.

Having appeared as a substitute in both the semi-final legs, the former Pompey season ticket holder will once again be part of the set-up.

And the youngster is eager to cap a breathless rise with Old Trafford glory.

He said: ‘I came through the Pompey ranks with Joel and Matt, right from the age of eight. Me and Joel also played for East Lodge for a while and played in the centre of defence together quite a few times.

‘Joel has always had a fantastic attitude and work-rate.

‘He was always first at the training ground and always last out. He was in the gym all the time.

‘Then at the age of 16 he and Matt were offered a year’s pro forms and I was released.

‘If I am being honest, I was devastated at the time but it has probably worked out for the best.

‘In the long run they didn’t see me progressing into a Premier League player and Paul Hart decided it was not for me there.

‘I suppose it is all about opinions.

‘So I shook his hand and said I would prove him wrong. Maybe I am not there just yet but I would like to think one day I will.

‘I always dreamed I would go and play at big grounds, yet something in your head always says it is unrealistic.

‘Now I’m going to Old Trafford and hopefully can do a job for Torquay. I went there to watch Pompey in the FA Cup in January 2003 when we lost 4-1 and Nigel Quashie produced his miss.

‘I remember how many fans there were and that I had never experienced anything like it in my life.

‘Now I’m going there to play. Whoever would have thought that would happen three years ago?’

Oastler featured for QPR in the Carling Cup against Port Vale back in August as a substitute.

But two months later he moved on loan to Torquay following contact from former Pompey youth coach Shaun North.

North, who oversaw Oastler’s development at Fratton Park, is currently first-team coach at Torquay.

The Gulls went on to finish seventh this season, making the play-offs where they defeated Shrewsbury.

Now they face Stevenage on Saturday looking to make it into League One.

He added: ‘I was at QPR playing for the reserves but didn’t want to carry on doing that. I wasn’t going to get first-team football and Paul Buckle came in and gave me a chance on loan. I didn’t really think twice.

‘Hopefully, I have repaid that faith they have put in me.

‘It is great to work with Shaun North again – he was there at Pompey the whole time I was and he’s been a big influence on my career.

‘What we have achieved this season is a credit to Torquay and we thoroughly deserve it.

‘The table does not lie, we deserve everything we get.

‘We are a good, young team and are coming up against a big, physical side in Stevenage but we have got to concentrate on our own game and get the right result.

‘We have agreed something in principle for me to stay permanently at Torquay but at the moment all focus is on Saturday.

‘Not many teams win at Old Trafford but that could be us.’