After years in the shadows, Osman finally emerged to prove his international class
15:51 GMT, 16 November 2012
It was a game he will remember forever more. A capacity crowd, a sparkling new stadium and a goal fit to grace any occasion.
But while the world and his wife were left speaking about Zlatan Ibrahimovic following the staggering strike on Wednesday evening, Leon Osman was able to come away from England’s contest with Sweden feeling equally content.
Of course, the Everton midfielder’s efforts were not as spectacular, or as game-changing, as the enigmatic Ibrahimovic but, in his own, understated way, Osman proved a point in Stockholm’s twinkling new Friends Arena.
Stepping up: Leon Osman eased into the England team against Sweden
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Many had wondered why, at the age of 31, Roy Hodgson had called Osman into his squad. This is a transitional period for the national team and the emphasis is on blooding new, young players who will potentially be the mainstays for major tournaments in 2018 and 2020.
Good footballers, however, never go out of fashion, not matter how old they are. And, that, in a nutshell is precisely what Osman showed on Wednesday night. Dovetailing well with Steven Gerrard, Osman kept England’s engine room ticking over with his assured range of passing.
Those who have been watching him over the last two years will not have been surprised that he fitted in so neatly but to see him make a contribution to the best football England have played under Roy Hodgson was nonetheless so pleasing.
‘We were all genuinely made up when we heard that he had been picked,’ said Leighton Baines, Osman’s Everton colleague and a man whose performances mean that Ashley Cole has genuine competition for his left-back spot.
‘The manager (David Moyes) had pulled me and Jags (Phil Jagielka) before he got everyone together to say he’d heard there was a chance Ossie had been called up but he didn’t want to say too much in case it never worked out.
‘But when he called us around to tell us, everyone was over the moon for him. It’s brilliant and fully deserved. He has had to wait a long time for this and some people will be wondering why he has been called up but he is a footballer’s footballer.
Fitting right in: Osman did not look out of place on England duty
‘He’s so skilful and his passing is brilliant. He has got goals in him too. He has definitely got the talent to stay in the squad and he is someone who won’t look out of place. He doesn’t get lots of headlines but footballers and people within the game appreciate the role he plays and the things he does.’
That may be true but there is a feeling that Osman would have made his England debut long before Wednesday night, had he played for a more 'fashionable' club. This is not being detrimental to Everton. Far from it.
Yet there are players who have played for southern based sides in recent years that have lacked Osman’s technical and tactical proficiencies. Put it another way, had he spent his career at Tottenham, say, he would not be one of England’s oldest debutants.
Stuck at the Toffees: Everton have enjoyed Osman's talents for years
Encouragingly, though, there are signs from Roy Hodgson that Osman will not join the ranks of players such as Mark Walters, Kevin Richardson, Michael Ricketts and David Nugent, who wore Three Lions on their chest once but never again.
‘It’s very good for me to know that a player like Osman, someone I’ve thought a lot of for a number of years since coming back to English football, can be brought in relatively late in his career and do the job he did,’ mused Hodgson.
‘The next time I put a squad together I can’t make guarantees but one thing is for sure: I believed in him and gave him a chance and he took the chance. He’s certainly a name we will be discussing very seriously the next time we get together.’
And there, if Osman needed any, was the proof he could be comfortable being referred to as an international class footballer.