Sport : Football

Osman hails 'leader of men' Gerrard

12th November 2012, 06:48pm

Leon Osman believes Steven Gerrard thoroughly deserves to join England's exclusive 100 club.

Gerrard will become the sixth Englishman to reach a century of caps in Wednesday's friendly against Sweden after a scan on Monday revealed he suffered no knee ligament damage in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

It will allow the 32-year-old to join Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Billy Wright in the pantheon of great players.

Such recognition seems far removed from junior football days, where Osman first came across Gerrard almost two decades ago.

But even then, Gerrard was a bit special and Osman feels this latest honour is richly deserved.

"It is fantastic to get to 100 caps," the Everton midfielder said. "There is only a select band that has managed to do it and Steven deserves to be in that crew.

"He is a fantastic player and a leader of men.

"We first played against each other on Merseyside when we were 12 or 13. To see him now get to his 100th cap is fantastic but not surprising."

Until they met up in Manchester earlier today, Osman's assessment of Gerrard's qualities has come exclusively from being on the opposing team.

Daniel Sturridge has benefited from being in the same camps as Gerrard and has profited personally from his vast experience.

"Steven has been fantastic with me when he has been involved in the squads," said the Chelsea forward.

"If you ask any midfielder he has played against, they will say he is a great player. Some of the best players who have ever been have said it.

"Hopefully he will be running out on the field and picking up his 100th on Wednesday."

In contrast, Osman is looking to make the most of his call-up at the age of 31.

"I hoped my time hadn't passed me by," he said.

"As an English lad I had a desire to play for my country and I was hopeful it might happen.

"I had stopped looking for my name in the squad every time. But I didn't give up hope."

A contemporary of Joe Cole at England Under-15 level, Osman's career has largely gone under the radar, possibly a victim of Everton's status as one of England's most over-achieving, but unfashionable, clubs.

However, with the Toffeemen soaring to fourth in the table after a superb start to the season, Roy Hodgson has decided it is time to look at a player who has made over 300 appearances for his only professional club.

"I hope I can be an inspiration," he said.

"It just shows if you keep believing, concentrate on your form and make sure that is good, you may one day get recognised."

Osman's selection has earned comparisons with that of Scott Parker, who four-and-a-half years after winning his third cap, was handed a fourth in February 2011 and went on to become an integral figure in Fabio Capello's Euro 2012 squad.

"Scott broke into the squad really early," said Osman.

"When he got back in later on he was a lot more experienced and mature football-wise and was able to show that on the pitch.

"I seem to have developed late in the game as well.

"I didn't make my debut until I was 21 and didn't stay in the first team until I was 23, so to make a late arrival here doesn't actually surprise me."

Osman still has a bit of work to do though, because in a squad reduced to 21 by the five withdrawals on Sunday night, central midfield remains heavily congested.

Presuming Gerrard will start and Jack Wilshere will be involved for at least part of the game, Osman is battling against Tom Cleverley and Tom Huddlestone, one of three players called up late on Sunday night.

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha was another, with Osman acknowledging the 20-year-old has made a significant impression already.

"We have all been hearing about how well Zaha has been playing in the Championship for a year or so," said Osman.

"He has certainly been on everyone's radar.

"He trained this morning, was direct and skilful and was committing people. He looks the real deal."


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