I have to admit, I was originally rather negative when I heard the news that Leon Osman had been called-up to the England squad. Regardless of my Everton bias, I thought that his inclusion was a pretty pointless exercise. The fact that England’s game against Sweden is a friendly fixture means that the match should be treated as a way to experiment and develop a stronger squad for future competitive fixtures. Osman is uncapped and has never had the experience of playing on the international stage, and coupled with the fact that he will be approaching his mid-thirties when England compete at the 2014 World Cup, he cannot realistically be seen as being a long-term candidate for the England squad.
'True-blue' Osman is a product of Everton's youth academy
But then, I reconsidered. Regardless of any ‘four year plans’ or younger alternative candidates, why shouldn’t Osman be given the opportunity to play for his country if he has earned the right? Earning your first England call-up is something that players would cherish, whether it comes early in your career or, like Osman, at age thirty-one. If a player has performed well enough to warrant a place in the team, then surely he should be rewarded by getting the recognition his performances have deserved. For years Osman has been a solid component in Everton’s squad, and although rarely being involved in any headline-grabbing incidents, he has been a very competent and consistent performer.
On the subject of the ‘future’, come Brazil 2014, if a player approaching his mid-thirties is playing better than a young player billed as having massive potential (Walcott 2006, Chamberlain 2012), then I’d prefer him in my England team. The future is important, but surely not as important as the present, and taking an in-form older team to a major tournament would surely be a better option than an undeveloped but high-potential squad (regardless of whether their England future will be shorter than their younger counterparts).
'Just don't come back with a broken leg Leon'
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hailing Osman as England’s future. But what I am saying is that regardless of age, if Osman has deserved his place in the list of English players who have had the opportunity to represent their country, then I say give him the cap that his hard-work has deserved.