Leon Osman is poised to make his 300th Everton appearance if selected for the Toffees’ next Premier League fixture, at home to Fulham on Saturday, and the graduate of Everton’s prolific academy has been one of David Moyes’ most reliable performers for the duration of his career at Goodison Park.
Osman is one of only two players who was on Everton’s books when Moyes took over in March 2002 – Tony Hibbert, Osman’s fellow youth team graduate, is the other and the right-back played in Moyes’ first fixture in charge, also against Fulham. But while Hibbert had already broken into the first team by the time Moyes replaced Walter Smith, Osman’s senior breakthrough had to wait a little while.
Loaned out to Carlisle United partway through Moyes’ first full season in charge, Osman made two brief appearances for the Toffees in 2002-03, a last minute substitute against both Tottenham Hotspur in January and Aston Villa in April. Another loan spell followed in the following season, this time to Derby County, with the Osman returning at the end of the 2003-04 campaign. Handed a start against Wolverhampton Wanderers on his first game back in Everton’s blue, Osman scored within minutes and started the last two games of the season, establishing himself firmly in Moyes’ thoughts for the following year.
The 2004-05 season was a successful one for Everton, ending with Champions League qualification, with Osman playing a full part. 35 appearances and seven goals signified a deep contribution to Everton’s cause, with Osman usually starting on the right of midfield, a position he often takes to this day despite it being removed from what is often the 30-year-old’s best, central midfield. But Osman’s hard work on either flank makes up for what he lacks in speed, and the deft touch and ability to drift inside enables Osman to get involved in Everton’s attacks, rather than be restricted on the periphery.
Osman was given a central berth during a notable spell in the latter half of the 2009-10 season. In three consecutive home games against Chelsea, Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League and Manchester United Osman dominated, his quick feet at one point memorably allowing him to glide through the Chelsea midfield, containing more the vaunted names of Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack. More recently, Osman slalomed past the Tottenham defence to feed Nikica Jelavic, who scored the only goal of the game, leading the Liverpool
Moyes himself paid tribute to Osman in December, as reported by Click Liverpool, after Osman starred in an away victory over Swansea City, praising the versatility showcased in the decade Osman has been a part of Moyes’ plans. Osman was also lauded by the manager for his staying power, a compliment worth repeating as Osman approaches a triple century of Everton appearances: “Ossie’s always been a part of it and I hope that will always be the way.”
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