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Page last updated at 18:57 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Leon Osman and Richard Dunne set good example

Jonathan Pearce
By Jonathan Pearce
BBC football commentator

Richard Dunne (left) celebrates a goal with Aston Villa team-mate Gabriel Agbonlahor
Is it written somewhere that Dunne will meet his old club Manchester City in the Carling Cup final?

With the appalling Togo African Cup of Nations tragedy and the constant corrosive concern about the financial predicament of clubs at home, it's been difficult to find anything to bring a smile in football.

Everton's Leon Osman and Richard Dunne may seem an odd couple but they've brought a little warmth back into a cold, depressing few days.

Osman's reaction to the big freeze was charming. As Arsene Wenger rightfully pointed out, too many games were postponed after the snow because people's lives are tied up in restrictive health and safety bandages.

The weather was bad and in many cases where pitches were unplayable postponements were inevitable.

Hard-up clubs don't have the luxury of undersoil heating but to call some games off because surrounding roads and pavements were icy highlighted our modern cosseted way of life.

Why Sunday's match between West Ham and Wolves was postponed 24 hours in advance totally beats me. Photos taken at the gates of the Boleyn Ground proved there were no safety issues by the scheduled kick-off time.

If fans had been encouraged to clear the roads and paths, as they used to be, then more games would have gone ahead. Too many excuses are always sought and found.

Osman put it all into perspective in his Match of the Day interview after Everton's terrific performance in the 2-2 draw at Arsenal. He had played a starring role, Marouane Fellaini had been outstanding and Tim Cahill had put in his best performance in weeks.

All this came as the temperatures plummeted to the bone-numbing and the snow swirled and stung faces.

The little homegrown Everton midfielder admitted it was difficult to even see team-mates at times through the blizzard but his final verdict was that it had all been great fun. No complaints, no moans, just a boyish expression that summed up his enjoyment in a game he loves - wonderful!

It gave me a whiff of a reminder of snowball fights as a kid in Stoke Lodge park in Bristol followed by a game of football played with an orange Frido ball that got punctured in the rose bushes but then repaired by Dad smearing a hot knife over the plastic. Marvellous!

Everton's Leon Osman celebrates his goal at Arsenal
Osman celebrates opening the scoring at a freezing Emirates Stadium

I've never heard a bad word said about Osman. Other more prominent names could take a leaf out of the book of a player who remains unsung and under-rated.

One or too could follow the example of Dunne too.

By his own admission he let himself down at times in his early career. He didn't fulfil his talent as an Everton teenager and got into disciplinary problems at Manchester City and in 2003 Kevin Keegan could easily have booted him onto football's scrapheap.

But then he grew up, knuckled down, kept his weight in check and became a model professional deserving of admiration.

He became the first man to win City's Player of the Year award four times and though prone to the odd lapse, own goal and too many red cards, he has always given his all.

I always felt it was a harsh decision by City to let him go to Aston Villa in August and for Martin O'Neill it has turned out to be one of the best signings of the season. The big Irish defender has been one of the most prominent players of the campaign.

He has galvanised a young Villa side, who have kept four clean sheets in his last six games. In his 19 games they have conceded just 16 goals - a noticeable improvement on the record over the same period last season.

He has become a leader of men and a dignified man. Apart from admitting he was "hurt" by the manner of his City exit, he did not air any dirty washing in public. He kept his own council after Thierry Henry had cheated him of a World Cup dream and he has been impressive on and off the field.

606: DEBATE

It has been so refreshing this week to hear him talk of his hunger to win the Carling Cup, a competition that is often belittled by too many.

It seems typical of the 30-year-old that he sees the benefits that cup success could bring to the whole club and not just himself. He is very likeable.

Football has a habit of creating romantic stories. Is it written somewhere that Dunne will meet his old club City in the Carling Cup final? Many people inside the game and neutral fans watching their TV sets will be on his side.

That's not to say Blackburn don't have their deserving individuals too.

Paul Robinson has never bleated about unfairly being made public enemy number one for his England errors, Ryan Nelsen has always been a dependable, fine defender and injuries have robbed David Dunn of more success.

But in this troubled week many people will remember with warmth Dunne's worthy, poised and highly impressive reaction to adversity at City and in Paris with Republic of Ireland.

If Villa win through, I will smile for Dunne. He and Osman have kept me cheerful this week when it would have been easy to think all was shocking and sad in the game.


Highlights of the Blackburn v Aston Villa Carling Cup semi-final, second leg are on Match of the Day with the programme broadcast on BBC Two and online at 2320 GMT on Thursday.

Jonathan Pearce will commentate on the live coverage of the second leg from Villa Park next Wednesday, 20 January. The programme will broadcast on BBC One and online at 1930 GMT.

On Tuesday, 19 January the first leg of the semi-final between Manchester City and Manchester United is also live on the BBC. The programme starts on the red button and online at 1930 GMT and on BBC1 and online at 2000 GMT.



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see also
Blackburn v Aston Villa
14 Jan 10 |  League Cup
Arsenal 2-2 Everton
09 Jan 10 |  Premier League


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