My word, preseason friendlies are shite.
Every year you fall for it though. And let’s be honest, if you were ever going to show appreciation for a player it would be one like Leon Osman. You only have to see the comments that crop up from other players every now and again, about just how talented the little chap is, to realise what a little gem of a player has been almost taken for granted at Everton for the last 10 years.
A phenomenon as a youth player his career suffered a setback with a serious injury, but after being farmed out on loan to places like Derby County he came back and made himself a mainstay of the Blues for a decade, playing – with mixed results – in a wide variety of positions and a number of different systems. A ‘manager’s dream’ as they say, he overcome his blinding lack of pace with sheer ability and intelligence and has always played the game in the way that you would describe as ‘Everton’.
A proper player.
After barely touching the ball for the first half of his testimonial against a strong and very decent-looking Porto, Osman had three chances to steal the show. The introduction of James McCarthy and Mohamed Besic at half-time injected a bit more life into the Blues who led rather fortunately thanks to the visiting keeper kicking a ball straight out to Aiden McGeady on 41 minutes. The gonna-give-yourself-piles-if-you-keep-straining—faced winger did well to wait until Steven Naismith got back onside before teeing the Scottish striker up for a confident finish low into the Park End goal.
It was a Porto sub, the gloriously named DJed-at-the-Loft-before-he-was-taken-far-too-young-sounding striker Jackson Martinez, who put the visitors level on 57 minutes, presenting Osman with the platform to miss those chances to score the winner. McGeady and Tony Hibbert – it was a friendly – combined down the right an all three occasions but a blocked shot and two wayward glancing headers meant that Osman took his ovation on 85 minutes without settling matters.
The performance of Besic was the big positive from the game. While he was still being introduced on the tannoy the Bosnian was performing a drag-back and spraying the ball out wide with this first handful of touches in a blue shirt. Quick and clever, the initial impressions of his busy style put you in mind of Olivier Dacourt. And that’s a good thing.
The Blues are still trying to loan Christian Atsu apparently, and then that will be all their business done following the signing of youngsters Brendan Galloway and David Henen. Looking at Youtube, and the fact that every clip of Atsu seems to be the Ghanaian steaming down the wing and then cutting to the next piece of action just as he shapes to cross, the impression you get is that he is undoubtedly ra-ra-rapido but perhaps his ‘end product’ leaves a little to be desired. Roberto Martinez is clearly looking for someone to fill the Gerard Deulofeu ‘wildcard when we’re chasing the game’ role though, and must think Atsu fits the bill.
‘Get the Ghanaian lad on, Roberto!’ etc. etc.