Flying high - Leon Osman joins Baines and Jagielka in the England squad - Alex Livesey
An ordinary, everyday Thursday morning was lit up with the news that Leon Osman has been called-up to the England squad for next week’s friendly in Sweden, something that is both overdue and well deserved...
The news of Ossie's call-up was warmly received by Evertonians everywhere, along with several cries of "about time", due to the midfielder’s consistent displays over the past few years.
Given the awkward timing of the friendly the squad does have an ‘experimental’ look about it, with several big name stars absent. But boss Roy Hodgson deserves credit for looking at players beyond the usual ‘big four’, with the likes of Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross and Celtic’s Fraser Forster also named.
For Osman though it is just reward for another superb season in the heart of Everton’s midfield. Trawling through Twitter in the aftermath of the FA’s announcement I found some interesting stats that back up his international recognition. Firstly Jermain Defoe (47) & Kevin Nolan (29) are the only English players to have had more shots in the Premier League this season than Osman (27). While only Leon Britton and Paul Scholes have higher pass completion than Leon Osman among Englishmen who play most matches in Premier League.
Esteemed company indeed.
For Evertonians though Osman’s abilities are well known. 2014 will mark 10 years since he made his debut for the club, at the relatively old age of 23. He has since racked up more than 300 appearances in a Toffees shirt. Prior to that game against Wolves in April 2004 (where he scored within three minutes incidentally) it looked doubtful as to whether he would ever fully graduate from the academy ranks, his diminutive stature proving a block to his progress into the rough and tumble of the Premier League.
Formative loan spells and Carlisle and Derby County proved crucial however and he never left the first-team picture once he has broken through at the tail end of that 2003/04 season.
As well as his lack of strength he is also not the quickest, but he strives to make up for those deficiencies through hard work, selflessness and determination. Sometimes though those qualities worked against Osman as he often found himself being played out of position on the right wing, refusing to moan about it, even if it stunted his abilities.
He would also never hide when things were tough. Some players go missing when the team is playing poorly, but Osman would always stick his head above the paparet, meaning he was often the first to take the flack.
Technically though there a few better in the Everton squad, his close control, precise passing and (cliché alert) clever footballing brain, mean he has always been a mainstay in David Moyes’ side. If you look at some of the players who have come and gone from the squad over the past decade, that is some achievement.
For me he really excelled when put back in his more familiar central position with bigger team-mates around him to add muscle, giving him the space to express his creative talents. With the pace of international football generally slower, with more emphasis on skill and close control, will Osman revel in the international arena?
I have to be honest and say I thought his time with England had passed, with his lack of strength and pace holding him back when it comes to playing international football. Not to mention the competition he has faced in the heart of England’s midfield throughout the 2000s.
But with the Three Lions going through something of a lean spell when it comes to creative midfield talent, Ossies’ England chances were revived in recent months.
Plus, some of the filth that have been given call-ups in previous squads probably means I am on a shortlist somewhere - Ossie is as deserving as anyone.
Let’s not kid ourselves this does not mean Osman will go on and become a regular international. Indeed he could join the likes of Jay Bothroyd and Kevin Davies on the one-capped wonder list.
But at the very least it is deserved recognition for 10 years of consistent displays at Premier League level. In the absence of a medal an England cap (should he play) will be something for him to savour for years to come.
At the most though it could be the opportunity to cement himself in his national squad, with the World Cup in Brazil a little under 18 months away.