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Osman And England: What Might Have Been

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Leon Osman has been called up to the England Squad to face Sweden in a friendly next Wednesday.

For many, the 31-year old Everton academy graduate has been long deserving of an international cap, although few would have put money on it.

The question is, why now?

Osman has been a model of consistency for Everton since his senior debut in 2000 and is widely regarded as one of the most underrated midfielders in the Premier League.

Having said that, he will be 33 by the time the World Cup in Rio comes around and well past his prime, so his call up for a friendly to open Sweden’s new national stadium stinks of pure sentiment.

England boss, Roy Hodgson has claimed that he has been a fan of the Everton star since his days at Fulham. Why then has it taken him until now to hand him his first cap?

It would be easy to take Hodgson’s comments with a pinch of salt and assume that Osman has hit a bit of form at the right time and caught the attention of the former West Brom chief.

In reality, he has been playing the best football of his career for the past two years and has transformed himself from a bit-part player at Goodison Park to an influential figure.

Why then didn’t the Three Lions boss use him at the Euros then?

It didn’t take a football genius to realise that England struggled to keep hold of the ball in Poland and Ukraine and were fortunate to make it out of their group.

That is not to suggest that Osman should have walked into that England squad and automatically lined up alongside Gerrard in central midfield. However, if Hodgson has rated the Toffee man for the past five years, surely he should have noticed that the Huyton-raised blue could have been of use during the European campaign.

Spain romped to a 4-0 victory over Italy in the final with a team full of players of similar stature to Osman. In fact their midfield partnership of Andres Iniesta and Xavi have a combined height of one Peter Crouch, and are regarded as the best midfield pairing in football.

England had faced Italy in the knockout stages and were lucky to hold out for a 0-0 draw and force penalties in which the inevitable happened. After chasing the ball around after Andrea Pirlo for 90 minutes, it would have been ideal to introduce an experienced midfielder who can keep hold of the ball and does not panic under pressure.

Instead Hodgson brought on Jordan Henderson. The Liverpool youngster has his whole career ahead of him and may well turn out to be a fine player for club and country.

However, as things stand, even the most avid Liverpool fan would surely agree that the former Sunderland man is all endeavour and little end product. Henderson is just the latest addition to a long list of midfielder’s who have been called into the England squad at Osman’s expense.

The Goodison crowd favourite will enjoy his first taste of international football and rightly so, over a decade of consistent performances have earned him the right to represent his country. Unfortunately time is a luxury that has not been afforded to Osman in his bid to establish himself in the Three Lions squad and he is likely to look back on previous snubs wondering what might have been.

Follow me on Twitter @GaryMaidenEFC

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