Leon Osman, Stan Kroenke and Fulham fury

Has Leon Osman slipped under the England radar?
Leon Osman: England’s forgotten man?
Leon Osman has never made an international appearance despite seven solid seasons with Everton. Is he England’s ‘forgotten man’?

On Saturday, a late Leighton Baines penalty cancelled out two Darren Bent strikes as Everton shared the points with Aston Villa in a dramatic draw at Goodison Park.
The man who gave them the lead in the 38th minute, Leon Osman, put in yet another solid display for the club he has been at since 1997. The 29-year-old, though, is yet to appear for an international side, despite being eligible for Turkey and Cyprus (through his father) and England (through his mother).
Osman, at times, can frustrate the Everton faithful, but his quality is certainly not in question – he’s been compared to Paul Gascoigne in the past and Liverpool’s Joe Cole has stated that Osman was the better talent when they were teammates at England youth level.
Osman can be used both on the right and in the middle, and has even been used on the left, cutting inside onto his favoured right-foot (an ‘inside-out’ winger) and generally causing opposition full-backs problems week-in, week-out.
Everton have struggled this season, with the lack of a genuine, top-quality striker their biggest problem, but Osman has been a consistent source of quality for David Moyes’ side, making nineteen appearances in the Premier League, with five assists and three goals to his name.
The main criticism of Osman is that he can go missing in games, but, surely, Osman is exactly the sort of player England are looking for? He’s a ball-playing, skilful midfielder who can play all across the midfield and is able to use both feet (something which the current crop of English talent is generally lacking and something that other nations have instilled into their players with great ease). He may be diminutive but he does flourish when coming up against big, powerful defenders (against Birmingham, a team notoriously difficult to break down, in October, he was the best player on the pitch as Everton won 2-0).
This season, Osman has started on the left side more than on the opposite wing – seven times to five times, and one in the middle. He’s been used as a box-to-box midfielder in the past and is even useful in a defensive sense when in a side-midfield position, something that could come in handy if he were selected for England, as Fabio Capello prefers to play with attacking full-backs.
In the last England squad, Wolves’ Matt Jarvis, West Ham’s Scott Parker and Osman’s teammate Phil Jagielka were all selected. The argument that Capello only picks players from the so-called ‘big’ teams is nonsense, but, sometimes, it does appear that Capello picks players that are getting rave reviews in the media, as well as succumbing to the pressure of fans and club managers.
Osman is very rarely given any credit for his performances. He might not be a world-beater and he may struggle if put up against a top-quality international full-back. But he’s a hard-working, determined, well-disciplined (he’s never been sent off in the League and has only been booked twenty-one times since his first Everton start in May 2004) and his passing and vision are both excellent.
England and Fabio Capello are still trying to get over the debacle that was the 2010 World Cup and it is a mystery to me how a player who has performed so consistently for so many seasons has seemingly escaped the attention of not only Capello, but the English public too.
Osman has been named Everton’s Player of the Month for March – maybe it’s time to finally give Leon Osman some international recognition.

Fans can ‘go to hell’, says Fulham owner
Fulham fans fury over Michael Jackson statue
Fulham fans are furious with their owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, who has had a statue of Michael Jackson erected outside Craven Cottage.
Fulham fans have reacted angrily after their owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, decided that a statue of Michael Jackson should be placed outside their stadium – Craven Cottage.
Al-Fayed, who was good friends with Jackson, infuriated Fulham fans further by claiming thatFulham fans will love it. If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell.
“I don’t want them to be fans. If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea, they can go anywhere else. People will queue to come and visit it from all over the UK and it is something that I and everybody else should be proud of.”
Fulham message boards were later besieged with posters demonstrating their disgust at what Al-Fayed had said, with one member of a Fulham message board labelling the Egyptian “an arrogant bully”. Another member stated: “I find this very disrespectful and insulting.”
Fulham fan Callum Kerrins told the Fulham Chronicle: “I wrote to the club to complain, not that it will do any good. I feel really let down.” Another fan argued “that at least 90 per cent of Fulham fans are against the statue, yet he wants us to go to hell and support someone else.”
Cottagers fans are clearly not happy, not just with the statue, but with the way Al-Fayed has completely disregarded the thoughts of Fulham fans, as ‘Ash’ told the Chronicle: “[Al-Fayed’s] comments were disgraceful today. I’ve paid so much money to see my team play and you’ve disrespected us all. We are entitled to our opinions. A public apology will be nice. Stop favouring the tourists over the diehards.”
Al-Fayed bought Fulham in 1997 and has seen the London club rise from the Third Division right up to the top flight. Under Roy Hodgson’s tenure, the club reached the Europa League final last year. Whilst Al-Fayed has clearly done an awful lot for Fulham, the fans are obviously unhappy with recent developments.
Fulham fans have set up a petition to try and convince Al-Fayed that the fans do not want the statue and that maybe the owner should think about what the fans actually want, rather than what he wants.
Kroenke makes move for Arsenal
American tycoon in advanced talks with Gunners
American businessman Stan Kroenke is in advanced talks over the takeover of Arsenal, which the Supporters’ Trust have welcomed.
American tycoon Stan Kroenke is in advanced talks to take control of Arsenal, according to Sky Sports.
Kroenke is currently the largest shareholder at the club, owning a twenty-nine per cent stake. If he were to purchase a further 0.09% of the Premier League club Kroenke would have to make a bid for the remainder.
“Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov also has more than a 20 per cent stake in the club – but now Kroenke has made a move to secure full control”, says Sky Sports. “Sky sources understand that Kroenke has come to an agreement with fellow shareholders Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith to purchase their shares.”
Both own 16% of Arsenal and, therefore, if Kroenke were to confirm those deals, a takeover bid would be triggered.
Arsenal would become the fifth Premier League club to be owned by an American, along with Manchester United, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Liverpool.
The Arsenal Supporters’ Trusthas cautiously welcomed the news, releasing a statement on Sunday night: “AST thinks it is really important that supporters remain involved in Arsenal’s ownership structure.
“Stan Kroenke has a good relationship with the AST and recently supported our fanshare scheme.
“We are hopeful of having discussions with him to discuss how our members and Arsenal supporters can keep their shares in Arsenal Football Club.”
Kroenke is the owner of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which includes the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League and St. Louis Rams of the NFL.
The reaction to this news seems to be a little mixed; some Arsenal fans are worried, given that there have been clubs in the Premier League who have struggled with foreign owners; many Arsenal fans are happy for a sport-savvy owner to come in and, as long as he doesn’t own 100% of the club and does commit funds to Arsenal, they are happy to support him; while most are just happy for some investment, or at least intention of investment.
In other Premier League news, FC Porto manager Andre Villas Boas is being linked with Liverpool. According to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport (and Gabriele Marcotti), Villas Boas is Liverpool’s top managerial target – apparently, the 33-year-old has a pre-contract agreement with Liverpool. However, The Times’ Tony Barret quickly quashed the rumours.
These articles originally appeared on Sports Haze.

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