HE IS the long-serving artisan of David Moyes’s side whose sense of humour in the dressing room and procedural manner in interviews can sometimes obscure a keen intelligence.
Ask many Premier League players who they rate at Everton and while some will reel off the list of usual suspects like Nikica Jelavic, Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines – many too will mention Leon Osman.
Perhaps more a players’ player appreciated by fellow top-flight professionals for his longevity and exquisite ability on the ball, the 31-year-old was at his best again on Monday night when the Blues humbled the over-hyped Reds of Manchester.
And he hopes one day to use his analytical nous to help him make the next step in his career, just like Paul Lambert, the latest manager of tomorrow’s opponents Aston Villa, has done since his first managerial job at Livingston in 2005.
Like Osman, Lambert was a silky skilled midfielder who made the transition into the dugout – a breed which lags behind the various former gnarled central defenders who normally becomes bosses.
The Billinge-born Everton player has already been labelled one of his mini-managers on the pitch alongside Phil Neville, Tony Hibbert and the departed Tim Cahill, and making the next step remains on the agenda for Osman – even if he is far from ready to even think about hanging up his boots yet.
“You probably look around and there’s probably more ex-centre-halves as managers than anything else but Paul Lambert just shows that if you’re clever enough you can be a manager no matter what position you played in,” says the playmaker whose fiercely struck volley onto the cross-bar was one of Everton’s many chances against last season’s Premier League runners-up on Monday. Maybe me one day I’ll follow him but it’s far too early for that thankfully, and I can concentrate on my football for now and we'll see how things go in a few years time.”
Everton found themselves unable to beat Lambert’s Norwich last season, drawing twice, and Osman – who scored the equaliser after Grant Holt gave the Canaries an early lead at Goodison in December – expects more of the same now the Scot is in charge of Villa.
“I would expect him to take the same style to Villa – the way he likes his teams to play football and the philosophies he brings will stay with him,” he says.
“He will have instilled it in Aston Villa from day one and they’ll be difficult games just like at Carrow Road and Goodison last season.
“We need to be aware of the challenges and we need to match the intensity they play with.”
Everton’s re-shuffled summer training preparations have been credited with boosting the player’s fitness, perhaps highlighted by Osman and co’s ability to survive United’s onslaught as Alex Ferguson’s men desperately tried to come back into the game.
For Osman, the lack of a long-haul flight to play and train abroad has been a refreshing change. That extra fitness edge will be required again tomorrow against a Villa side smarting from their opening weekend defeat by newly-promoted West Ham.
“We hope it helps,” says Osman. “The amount of miles we’ve covered in the past few pre-seasons has been massive so to have our trips relatively close only in Europe this time around will hopefully benefit us in the mind and in the legs.
“I hope it helps me. It’s difficult to compare how I feel right now to last year but hopefully given everything that happens we’ll still start the season really well.”
David Moyes remarked after Monday’s win that the national media had given undue attention to United and their new signing Robin Van Persie by comparison to the hosts, but Osman is just excited about the coming season – and the potential for excitement that transfers like Van Persie’s generates for everyone in the game. Indeed his over-riding sense after Monday’s three points is pride in a job well done.
“They’re formidable challenges these games and with Van Persie and Rooney as a partnership it’ll make it very interesting in the Premier League compared to strike partnerships at other clubs,” he says.
“But before the Manchester United game we knew they always had great strikers in the past too and usually only select two!
“We were fired up and ready to go and we will be again on Saturday.”