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Leon Osman proved he was international class for England – Mersey Beat

After years in the shadows, Osman finally emerged to prove his international class

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UPDATED:

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

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

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

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.

Michael Owen back at Liverpool – Mersey Beat

Owen ready for another uncomfortable afternoon
back at Liverpool

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UPDATED:

15:16 GMT, 5 October 2012

They will give him a generous ovation on Sunday. As is usually the case when a former player’s name is read out, the Kop will clap, sing his old song and recognise the service he gave.

Given he appeared in a European final, played a crucial role in helping Liverpool win an FA Cup and lead the line with distinction, becoming a crowd favourite in the process, it is only right that the Kop will look to acknowledge Peter Crouch when sets foot on Anfield’s turf once more.

This way to Anfield: Michael Owen can expect a lukewarm reception

This way to Anfield: Michael Owen can expect a lukewarm reception

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What happens when Michael Owen does something similar, however, will be completely different.

He did all the things Crouch did for Liverpool and more but, for him, the best scenario for which he can hope is muted applause.

It is nothing new, of course. Owen has been back to play at Anfield on several occasions since he left for Real Madrid in 2004 for both Newcastle United and Manchester United – he even pulled on a Red shirt during Jamie Carragher’s testimonial in September 2010.

Each time he return, though, it sharpens the focus of what could and should have been but now never will be. Owen, remember, was one of the greatest goalscorers of his generation. In 2001, he won the FA Cup final almost single-handedly and was named European Footballer of the Year.

During one of the many transitional periods Liverpool have endured in the past two decades, Owen’s emergence was genuinely thrilling and whenever the club had a big game, he could be relied upon to come up with the goods.

With a tally of 158 goals in 297 appearances, Owen, by rights, should receive the warmest of welcomes whenever he comes back to the place that was once his home but now all he can expect is indifference and ambivalence.

Golden boy: Owen started his career at Liverpool and was once a hero

Golden boy: Owen started his career at Liverpool and was once a hero

Now this is not a sob story on Owen’s
behalf. Far from it. There are reasons – plenty of them valid – as to
why the Kop have lost their rapport with the former England
international and sympathy is not something he will ever get at Anfield.

Owen, after all, is accountable for the decisions he made.

For starters, there was the manner in which he left in 2004. Having indicated that he was ready to sign a new contract, he sat out Rafael Benitez’s first game against AK Graz in the Champions League and within days had signed for Madrid.

Then, when presented with the chance to re-sign for Liverpool 12 months later, he chose to join Newcastle instead at the last minute. When he headed back to Anfield that Christmas for a Premier League game, he was the subject of chants of, among others things, 'Where were you in Istanbul'

‘I could see the deflation in his eyes and recognised how hurt he was,’ Carragher wrote in his autobiography about the incident. ‘To see a player who had played his heart out for us on the end of a reception so untypical of those that former Anfield heroes usually get was depressing.

‘Over the years I’ve seen players who didn’t contribute half as much as Michael, and some who were only here for a season or two, be welcomed back as if they had played 500 games and won dozen of trophies. It made no sense.’

Of course, any hope that bridges would have been rebuilt were extinguished when Owen went to Manchester United in 2009 but, given he was without a club at that time, it was hardly an offer he could refuse, particularly as Liverpool showed no interest then to bring him back.

There was talk about Owen being drafted back to Liverpool as an emergency measure last month but it lacked substance. Brendan Rodgers has a vision in mind and it does not include signing a 32-year-old who has not started a Premier League game for two years and three days.

Tony Pulis, though, has an idea in mind for Owen and the Potteries are where he will see out his playing days. But what happens then

Will Owen ever return to Anfield and watch a game from the stands Will he be welcomed back, say, if a reunion takes place for the treble winners of 2001

To look at everything Owen achieved for Liverpool, those questions should not be asked. That they are tells you everything about a sad situation.