CONTRASTING fortunes for two Everton midfielders last weekend.
While Leon Osman was earning deserved plaudits on reaching a decade’s service for the first team, Ross Barkley was on his way down the leagues for another loan spell.
Osman, through sheer hard graft and beneficial circumstance, has blossomed into one of the Premier League’s most versatile and consistently productive midfielders.
Indeed, it’s extremely rare you will see a disappointing game from the 31-year-old.
Admiration, though, has been a long time coming.
Lumbered by the added expectation and scrutiny of being a homegrown player to come through the Academy ranks, it was many years into his career before Osman was truly appreciated by the majority of the Goodison crowd.
Outside Merseyside, it took even longer, with Osman’s England call-up last November not before time.
As David Moyes pointed out last week, players such as Osman – small, combative and skilful – have benefited from the rule changes in recent years that have lessened physicality in football.
Comparisons with Andres Iniesta may have been stretching things a bit – blame an excitable Ray Hall for that one – but there’s no doubt Osman provides an impressive transition between Everton’s midfield and attack.
Osman’s career has been a slow burner throughout. Injuries hampered his early development and meant he was only 16 days shy of his 23rd birthday before making his first start.