Ben Osborn set to prove his Sheffield United worth
Not so long ago, as he prepared for Sheffield United’s FA Cup tie against Reading, Ben Osborn explained how he passes the time whenever he finds himself sitting on the substitutes bench.
It has been a seat the midfielder has occupied for long spells this season. By his own admission, the 25-year-old expected to appear on a more regular basis, after leaving Nottingham Forest last summer, than has proved to be the case.
But rather than twiddle his thumbs or chat with a team mate before going for the odd jog along the touchline, Osborn revealed he prefers to study the action closely: Observe the movements of opponents and the positions his own colleagues, particularly those on United’s left-flank, prefer to adopt.
The information Osborne has gleaned, his inquisitive nature, could prove crucial over the coming weeks. With Enda Stevens set to miss Saturday’s visit to Newcastle through injury - and almost certainly United’s home games against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur too - he is set to enjoy a prolonged run in the side. At, with Wilder’s squad chasing European football on two fronts, a pivotal stage of the campaign.
“Whatever we do, Ben will slot in,” the United manager said, confirming Stevens has suffered a recurrence of the problem which forced him to sit out that fifth round tie at the Madejski Stadium. “And he’s done really well.
“Yes, it’s disappointing about Enda. But Ben has done brilliant, really, really well, when he’s stepped in there. It goes to show how important every player here is.”
Despite being signed to provide competition in central areas of the pitch, the majority of Osborn’s outings this term have come at wing-back. Comfortable operating in more advanced areas and possessing impressive stamina, it is a role he is perfectly suited to performing; as his cross, for United’s first goal of their fifth round win over Reading, illustrated.
The issue which has ruled Stevens out of the trip to St James’ Park was first diagnosed following last month’s draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, but the Republic of Ireland international was deemed fit enough to start the Premier League fixture against Norwich City six days ago. A 1-0 victory over Daniel Farke’s side saw United finish the latest round of matches in seventh - only five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea - as they also prepare for an FA Cup quarter-final against Mikel Arteta’s men. The winners of that tournament automatically qualify, unless they have already done so via the PL, for the Europa League.
“He (Stevens) will be out for a couple of weeks,” Wilder said. “It’s disappointing, as I stated, for both him and the group.
“But I can’t complain about injuries. Look at the ones they (Newcastle) have had up there.”