With Leon Osman celebrating 10 years as a first team player in the recent draw with Swansea, we look back at some of Leon’s highlights in an Everton shirt.
Osman statue has certainly risen in recent years, with more and more people appreciating what he brings to the team. Arguably one of the most technically gifted players to come out of the Everton academy system, Osman is a rare breed in that he is a naturally two footed player. An excellent passer of the ball, Osman’s close control make him a fashionable footballer at the moment. Very much in the Spanish mould, Osman has deservedly received international recognition this year, with an England debut coming against Sweden.
It has not always been plain sailing for Osman. After winning the FA Youth Cup with Everton in 1998, Osman suffered a serious knee ligament injury which disrupted and delayed his inevitable progress into the Everton first team. When he returned to fitness he became a regular goal scorer for the reserves and with Evertonians desperate for more home grown talent in the first team, the more knowledgeable support, pushed for his inclusion in the first team. David Moyes was biding his time and preferred to send Osman out on loan to Carlisle and Derby County before finally granting Osman his full Everton debut away at Wolves during the 2003/4 season.
Although he had a couple of prior substitute appearances to his name Osman was to make an immediate impact. Inside 10 minutes, Osman gave Everton the lead with a finish at the near post. Ultimately Everton were to lose that game, but with the club facing upheaval that summer, Osman was to become a first team regular from that moment onwards.
The following Season, 2004/5 Everton were to finish 4th and the opportunity to qualify for the Champions League. Osman played a significant part in that season, scoring seven times, including a double against West Brom at Goodison in a 2-1 win. Everton developed a healthy knack of scoring late goals that season, and Osman scored one such goal against Portsmouth early in the New Year. Everton had endured a difficult Christmas and many were beginning to doubt Everton’s top 4 credentials. With only moments to spare Osman scored a vital winning goal which lifted the roof of Goodison and lifted spirits in the Everton camp.
In the 2007/8 season, with Everton now regulars in European competition, Leon Osman scored arguably his best goal in an Everton shirt. A fantastic free flowing team goal, ending with a superb finish from Osman as Everton beat European minnows Larissa 3-1.
Fast forward a year, and Everton were looking to add silverware to the impressive David Moyes era. With Everton struggling to beat Macclesfield in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, Leon Osman scored a superb goal, placing the ball in the top corner to give Everton a 1-0 win against stubborn lower league opposition. That set Everton on a tremendous cup run, which ultimately ended in Cup Final defeat.
In many ways the Cup Final was a watershed in Osman’s Everton career. Up until that point he had often been utilized as a wide man, but Osman’s natural abilities often forced him to drift inside. During the cup final his lack of pace was exposed and many questioned his worth to the team. With Everton suffering a downturn in form the following season, Moyes, searching for a solution to turn around Everton’s season, played Osman in a more central role, which not only coincided with Everton’s form improving dramatically, but also resulted in Leon Osman claiming a number of man of the match awards. The voices, who had long pushed for international recognition for Osman grew louder, and as his consistency levels increased, the international call finally arrived. Leon Osman has been a credit to Everton and his value to the team cannot be underestimated.