James McCarthy is the perfect safety blanket for Everton FC’s midfield, says admiring team-mate Leon Osman.
The Republic of Ireland midfielder cleared a late goalbound effort off the line at the Stadium of Light on Sunday to ensure Everton shared the spoils with Sunderland.
It followed a typically industrious display from the 24-year-old, who had also shone in the previous 3-0 Europa League triumph over Lille.
McCarthy picked up a hamstring injury against the Black Cats and did not train with the Ireland squad yesterday, as Martin O’Neill’s men prepare for their European Championship qualifier against Scotland this Friday.
It remains unclear whether the Toffees man will be passed fit to be involved, but Osman insists his presence is invaluable for the Goodison outfit.
He said: “Gaz Barry gets a lot of plaudits and rightly so. He’s been fantastic since he joined the club, but James McCarthy is equally as important.
“As soon as we lose the ball he’s the one who seems to win it back before you have even turned around. The tempo at which he does so is incredible. He deserves a lot of credit for what he brings to the side.
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND – Sunday, November 9, 2014: Everton’s James McCarthy in action against Sunderland’s Liam Bridcutt during the Premier League match at the Stadium of Light. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
“We’ve got some good options. Darron Gibson has come in after not playing in the first team for a while and I think he’s gone about his work well too.”
Last week Osman committed his future to the Blues by signing a one-year extension but that has not diminished his desire to be out playing for the Blues.
The midfielder is in his testimonial year – reserved for those few who stay 10 years at one club – but has spent 23 years playing for the Toffees as he progressed through the youth ranks.
And although he acknowledges the abundance of midfield options available to Roberto Martinez, he admits that accepting that he won’t play every game does not come easy for him.
“I think they tell you it’s something you have got to accept,” he said. “But if you ask most players out there they will tell you that they aren’t ready to do that. I am no different. I want to be involved in every single game and I am fighting hard to make sure that happens.
“I was involved in every game last season so not to be so this time around can be disappointing at times. But we are in Europe now. We have so many more games to take part in. We have had to make the squad bigger and that makes it harder to be involved in every single game.
“The manager has spoken about that but I have still been involved in three quarters of the games we have had so I am quietly pleased.”
Osman has shared his Everton journey with close friend Tony Hibbert, and was pleased to see the defender sign a new contract himself in the summer.
“Tony and I have played football together since we were 10 years old at Everton,” he added. “To now be 33 and still here at the club is fantastic.
“It’s been 23 years now and I don’t think anyone else would have had the same impact on my career as Tony has had.”