We’re back and kicking off the blog in style with a sit-down Q&A with Sheffield United player Ben Osborn. Talking torn family loyalties, Spotify playlists and Oli McBurnie’s Stone Island collection – this was a great interview with a proper top lad!
Welcome to the interview Ben, how are you? What you been up to?
Thanks for having me. Yeah, I’m all good thanks mate. I’m currently 3 days into preseason training so I’m struggling to walk up the stairs but apart from that it’s all good! My soccer school EFD (Elite Football Development) has just resumed and I’m currently in talks about being involved with a podcast but not much to report other than that. I pretty much enter social hibernation during the first couple of months of the new season.
Did you manage to get away anywhere nice since the season ended?
I went up to the Lake District straight after the season where it pissed it down for 3 days but it was still a great trip. Love a few drinks around Bowness during the day time. Then thankfully managed to get to Rhodes in Greece with my girlfriend for 5 days which was really good. Spent the time relaxing and reading, exactly what I needed to reset.
Right, down to business. Give us a bit of history into your background. What has been your route into football and signing your first pro deal?
The first team I can remember playing for was Chellaston Red Sox. I must’ve been 6 or 7. I can remember us being pretty good and nearly all of us ended up going on trial at Derby. I subsequently signed for Derby at under 8s, I believe, and was there for a year, training at the Ram arena and then playing matches at Rolls Royce. At the end of the season I believe I was the only member of that under 8 side that didn’t get retained! I was absolutely devastated.
As the new season approached a scout from Forest got in touch with my Dad and asked if I’d go down for a 6-week trial. I’ve only recently discovered that my mum was totally against the idea as I’d already had my heart broken by the academy system, but thankfully my dad opted to take me. I then eventually signed after a long 6 weeks and ended up staying with the club until I was 24!
I was 50/50 whether I was going to get a scholarship and go full time with Forest but thankfully they took a chance on me. It was there when I felt like I started to kick on a little bit. I loved being in full time football. I loved living in the digs and looking back they were some of the best years of my life. I had signed the standard 2-year scholarship on next to nothing money and as I was approaching the end of my contract, I still had no clue if I was going to get offered a pro contract!
We had a good run in the youth cup and then almost out of nowhere I received a call up to play for England U18s. When I returned, I was offered a 2-year pro contract and ended up making my first team debut towards the back end of my second year.
What did it feel like to be Derby lad, playing for their fiercest rivals?
I must admit, until I was about 17, I still followed Derby quite intensely. Going to see them whenever possible and was still very much a fan. Playing for the Forest first team was still a pipe dream at this point. However, a couple of months being in and around the first team and playing a couple of matches, everything changes. Towards the end of my time at Forest it had completely swung the other way, to the point where I’d dislike Derby as much as any Forest fan.
Is it true your dad switched alliances to Forest after you signed for them?
Not at all. He’d been a die-hard Derby fan his whole life, yet here he was with a season ticket for Forest watching his son play. He says that I’ve ruined football for him, as he is no longer a fan of anyone really, he just supports me! It’s a very strange one to describe as many of my close friends have gone through the same thing. He now has massive affection for Nottingham Forest but now I’ve moved on I think he can finally enjoy watching Derby play again. I think his ideal situation would be for Derby to win the league and Forest to go up automatic!
Describe the feeling when you scored the winner against us (Derby) in 2015.
Crazy! Too many thoughts running through my head, I didn’t know what to do – as you can probably tell from my celebration! I’d scored my first professional goal in the biggest game of the season, at the ground where all my mates had season tickets and who my whole family had supported all their lives. It sunk in after the game and I suppose that’s when the penny dropped that it was a pretty special moment.
Onto Sheff United – it took a while to make your full debut but you’ve really kicked on since. How does it differ to the Championship?
I’d featured from the bench a few times but to get that first start in the prem was a massive weight off my shoulders and an opportunity that I’d waited for my whole career. To make my first start in a 3-1 win over Tottenham as well was just fantastic. The main difference is that everyone is an athlete. Everyone! If you give the ball away, you’re immediately putting your team under pressure as most team’s counter attack is just frightening.
Does playing in front of no fans effect your game in anyway?
In the heat of the moment I’d say no, but when a game starts to go a bit flat and you go a while without the ball, I think the crowd can inspire you and encourage you to maybe go that extra % to try and regain the upper hand. It certainly effects the enjoyment levels after a win though!
What are your aspirations for the coming season? Have you adjusted to the ‘new normal’ in regards to playing football?
Yeah, I think you have to adapt. Everyone’s in the same boat. It’s not ideal and we miss the fans like you wouldn’t believe but it’s still a million times better than no football at all! My aspirations are to keep improving as a player, and to force myself into the managers thoughts so I can play even more games in the best league in the world.
Moving away from football, what are your hobbies outside of the game?
Music, film and tv, comedy, a bit of ice hockey and I’m rediscovering a fondness for cricket again.
You’re big into your music – what’s your most played album?
Good question, let me have a quick look on my Spotify… Ah, shock of my life. The Streets – Original Pirate Material.
You listening to anyone new at the minute? Anyone you recommend?
The Manor, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Idles are doing the rotation on my headphones at the moment!
Clothing wise, how would you describe your style?
I still love all the football casual stuff, although nothing that’s too in your face! Reiss normally gets a seeing too every few months as well so big up.
Oli McBurnie’s Stone Island collection is often on display – is he one of the better dressers at the club?
I don’t think he wears anything else apart from Stone Island or Gucci. His stoney collection puts mine to absolute shame! He’s either the best dressed or worst dressed, depending on how extravagant he decides to go!
What about the worst?
Tough one. To be honest, most lads are sporting tracksuits all year round, all though Chris Basham did rock up to a pool party in a pair of Nike Shocks and socks combo recently.
What’s your take on the Messi vs Ronaldo debate?
Can’t we just enjoy them both?! Haha, it has to be Messi. I was Ronaldo all the way but after much deliberation I think Messi is the greatest we’ll ever see.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a professional footballer?
The best thing is the feeling after a game when you’ve personally played well and your team has won, very hard to beat that feeling.
The worst thing is dealing with the backlash that comes after a bad performance and result.
An old gaffer once told me, don’t get too high, don’t get too low. I give myself 24 hours to enjoy a win or loathe after a defeat and then I move on.
What advice would you give any young lads hoping to turn pro?
Be enthusiastic. Want to learn, want to improve, want to turn up to training every day and try your best. Don’t take anything for granted and don’t have any regrets.
Who have been the biggest inspirations in your career to date?
My dad – Who’s complete love and obsession of the game growing up certainly rubbed off on me.
Charlie McParland – Under 23s coach who pushed me into the first team set up.
Gary Brazil – who gave me my first team debut.
Chris Cohen – Club Captain when I broke into the team at Forest and then went on to be my roommate. Took me under his wing and still speak frequently now.
Every first team gaffer I’ve played under has influenced me in some way or another.
Finally, describe yourself in only 3 words…
Sexy, Heroic and Sarcastic.
Ben also runs his own blog over at osbornon1.com where he discusses football, music, film & TV, and also lets off some steam in the ‘Rants’ section!