Underrated Everton midfielder Leon Osman finally earns first England call

 

When Leon Osman joins up with Roy Hodgson's England squad for the first time in Manchester on Sunday, he may find he receives a warm welcome from a player he barely knows.

That man is Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal youngster making his own return to the England set-up after his long injury lay-off, who also happens to be an admirer of the underrated Everton midfielder. It was, after all, during the Goodison club's victory over Tottenham in March that Wilshere tweeted his appreciation of the Everton man's talents. "Osman is a player by the way... plays a bit like Iniesta!" he said.

That comparison with Barcelona's Andres Iniesta would probably be laughed off by Osman himself – the joker in the pack in his club's dressing room – but it offered an insight into how highly regarded the 31-year-old is in football circles.

His manager, David Moyes, suggested recently that Osman's age appeared to be the only impediment to an international call-up but that has now arrived, and he could become England's oldest debutant since Kevin Davies, then 33, appeared against Montenegro in October 2010 – and in the process reignite the debate on the best uncapped Englishman in the Premier League.

Get Adobe Flash player

Hodgson, the England manager, said yesterday: "He's a player I've admired since I came back to Fulham five years ago. He's always done extremely well whenever I've played Everton or watched Everton. He's faced great competition in his position, but we've got the opportunity and the space to bring Leon in."

Osman is only 12 months younger than Steven Gerrard – who should earn his 100th cap in next Wednesday's friendly against Sweden in Stockholm – and is by some distance the oldest of the five uncapped players in Hodgson's party. His career trajectory offers a stark contrast with the explosion onto the Premier League and England scene this season by the precocious, jet-heeled Raheem Sterling. Refreshingly, it can be summed up by the unfashionable maxim "good things come to those who wait".

In 1998, Osman was in the same Everton FA Youth Cup-winning team as Tony Hibbert, Richard Dunne, Danny Cadamarteri and Francis Jeffers, yet he had to wait until he was 23, after loan spells at Carlisle and Derby County, for his first senior start in May 2004. His progress had been stalled by two serious injuries – first to a cartilage in the Youth Cup final and then a cruciate ligament in 2001 – and there were doubts about his size, he is 5ft 8in, but eventually his talent told.

Colin Harvey, his youth-team coach at Goodison, told The Independent: "He has not got great pace but has can turn and work the ball and go past people without pace. He has good trickery and feet movement."

One of those small, lightweight footballers too often regarded with suspicion in this country, Osman initially featured more in a wide role under Moyes but is one of the few Englishmen beside Wilshere who "can knit things together" in the middle, according to Joe Royle, who was Everton manager when he joined the club. Royle, a neighbour of the midfielder in Ormskirk, added: "I think it has probably taken Evertonians a long time to appreciate how good he is but there has never been any doubting his ability.

"With smaller players you wonder whether they are strong enough to play in the middle [but] as he has developed and grown stronger and got more football knowledge he can play there comfortably now."

Phil Neville, Osman's captain at Everton, tweeted yesterday that he is "technically as good as anyone" and the little man with the quick feet may now get the chance to show that in an England shirt.

Overlooked: Who else deserves a debut?

Grant Holt

The Norwich striker looks every inch the journeyman, but he scored 15 league goals last term and has three this season – which is three more than Andy Carroll.

Kevin Nolan

West Ham's captain has performed consistently in the Premier League for a decade and already has four goals this term. His only problem is Big Sam isn't England boss.

And, er... Mark Noble

Like Osman, the West Ham midfielder has been accused of lacking athleticism but he is thriving this year. May not quite be ready to make the step up to international level.

England squad

To play Sweden in Stockholm next Wednesday:

Caps/Goals

F Forster (Celtic) 0/0

J Hart (Man City) 26/0

J Ruddy (Norwich) 1/0

C Jenkinson (Arsenal) 0/0

L Baines (Everton) 12/1

R Bertrand (Chelsea) 2/0

G Cahill (Chelsea) 11/2

S Caulker (Spurs) 0/0

P Jagielka (Everton) 16/1

G Johnson (Liverpool) 43/1

R Shawcross (Stoke) 0/0

K Walker (Spurs) 4/0

T Cleverley (Man Utd) 5/0

S Gerrard (Liverpool) 99/19

A Lennon (Tottenham) 20/0

L Osman (Everton) 0/0

J Shelvey (Liverpool) 1/0

R Sterling (Liverpool) 0/0

T Walcott (Arsenal) 30/4

J Wilshere (Arsenal) 5/0

A Young (Man Utd) 26/6

W Rooney (Man Utd) 78/32

D Sturridge (Chelsea) 3/0

D Welbeck (Man Utd) 13/4

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album