LEON OSMAN didn’t need to trot out at the Friends Arena in Stockholm sporting a moustache to demonstrate a willingness to put himself out for others.
The midfielder has spent much of his Everton career demonstrating the versatility that earned belated but much-deserved international recognition last month.
Osman’s facial fungus was in support of the Movember initiative, one of several Goodison players who will no doubt have wasted little time reaching for the Gillette this morning.
History, though, will forever show the 31-year-old appearing particularly hirsute while proudly representing his country for the first time; motivation, if any were needed, for Osman to ensure a second England cap.
“It was debated – by me – whether I should get rid of the moustache or not,” he admits. “But it’s a charity thing we’re doing and I’m not vain enough to care about things like that.
“If it is my only experience with England then so be it. But hopefully I will be able to get more – and I’d have the second one without!”
An impressive debut prompted England manager Roy Hodgson to state Osman would be considered for future squads.
And the player adds: “It’s nice, it gives you a boost. But at the same time if I’m not playing well when the time comes to pick the next squad, it doesn’t matter if he’s been considering me or not.
“Your form still has to be up there if you’re going to be knocking on the door again.
“But getting the England cap has probably given my extra belief. I certainly believed in myself before I went there. But to go into the game and enjoy it as I did feeling reasonably comfortable in those surroundings, was great.
“It’s a cliché but if you want more of it, you have to earn it and keep on playing the way you are. We have to keep Everton playing the way we are, but get the results as well.
“It probably puts extra pressure on us, but it’s a good thing. It’s just down to us to achieve it. And if you’re up against something, that’s when people sometimes perform their best.”
This afternoon’s visit to the champions would seem a good opportunity for Osman to showcase his wares.
However, Everton’s most recent trip to Manchester City last September saw David Moyes court controversy with the Goodison faithful with his unsuccessful attempt to stifle the hosts in a 2-0 defeat.
Osman, though, would have no qualms compromising the chance to catch the eye by assuming a more disciplined, defensive role. For him, the team always comes first.
“These are games when you probably have to show a bit more,” he says. “But if we go up there on Saturday and my role is one where I have to sacrifice myself for the team, then I will do that as well.
“I play for Everton and it’s not about me going out and showcasing myself to the detriment of the team, it’s about Everton and us performing as a unit.”
While there have been few complaints this season over the level of Everton’s performances, wins have not been forthcoming of late.
Such was the case in midweek, when the Goodison outfit were held to a 1-1 home draw by Arsenal – their sixth stalemate in eight Premier League games – despite being the dominant side.
“We are pleased with the performance against Arsenal, although not the start – giving a team like Arsenal a head start isn’t great – but we showed great character,” says Osman.
“We didn’t bury ourselves, we took the ball, we played it, knocked a couple of direct ones and in the end we got our reward. In the end we could have gone on and won it as well.”
Everton were denied the chance of victory when referee Michael Oliver waved away strong penalty claims for a foul on Steven Pienaar by former team-mate Mikel Arteta, one of several decisions to have gone against Moyes’s men in recent weeks as they have slipped out of the Champions League qualification berths.
And Osman admits: “We can certainly feel hard done to over a lot of decisions which have gone against us. This season we’ve probably had one go for us which shouldn’t have, and pretty much every other one against us.
“It’s been tough but we will keep chipping away and playing as we are, because we’re certainly playing some good stuff. We just have to turn these chances into goals and be more clinical.”
Everton’s showing against the leading clubs already this season and an excellent recent record against City – eight wins in their last 10 meetings, four of which have been at Eastlands – indicates reason for encouragement this afternoon.
“We have proven we shouldn’t fear anyone,” says Osman. “We feel we are a good side, we play the game the way it should be played. We play at the back, we can mix it up, and we’re confident in each other’s ability.
“We’ve just had too many draws. If we do want the opportunity of the top four, we have to turn them into wins.
“But it doesn’t feel as though things are slipping away, because we all believe we will get our reward in the end. There’s certainly no down-heartedness in the dressing room.
“These are opportunities missed but it’s not a devastating time for us. We will hit a purple patch and we will be up there when we do.”