FOR a number of years Karleigh Osborne has been a great divider amongst the Brentford faithful. A key member of the 2004/05 Brentford youth team that overturned the continental talents of Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup, Karleigh has risen up through the ranks to become a key squad member in the first team.
The 21-year-old has now reached a pivotol point in his career. Last season’s central defensive stalwart Alan Bennett has suffered a complete collapse in form. Karleigh, on the other hand, has impressed with a series on confident appearances from the subs bench. After his tantalisingly close wonder volley against Millwall had the fans cheering his name, has Karleigh finally put himself firmly in the shop window for a regular first team place?
Karleigh’s backstory has been fickle. As a member of the Brentford juniors and youth teams, he was a confident, capable and strong defender who was considered a rock in the side.
Making his first team debut on the final game of the 2004/05 season, it would not be until the 06/07 season that he was given a decent spell in the squad. Inexperience radiated throughout his performances though, being booked nearly one in every two games and ending the season being sent off in a disastorous 3-0 defeat to Doncaster.
The brashness of youth was given as a reason and was accepted by Bees fans. What should have been a temporary stage of hot-headedness however lingered and the defensive mistakes continued, seemingly unabaited.
By the middle of the 2007/08 campaign, a then 19-year-old Karleigh, the last surviving player of the Arsenal giant killers team, was being urged to leave Griffin Park by fans who deemed him incapable of playing league football. The negativity and support would be enough to crush most young players but Karleigh put his mistakes to one side and concentrated on improving his strengths.
Throughout the 2008/09 campaign Karleigh made vast strides to show the Bees fans that he was worth their patience, that he had something to offer an up and coming promotion chasing side.
During the 3-0 victory away at Port Vale, Osborne suppressed Vale’s attacking threat as well as dealing with the home fans torrade of abuse (a Port Vale player had been sent off for a two footed tackle on Karleigh). He even managed to score a rare goal, much to the delight of the travelling Brentford fans who that day, cheered his name proudly like they had never done before.
The final game of that season saw Brentford celebrate with the League 2 trophy. Karleigh put in a man of the match performance and scored a game-winning bullet header to cap a perfect season for the Bees. That goal, that concluded a seasons worth of joy, symbolised just how far “the donkey Osborne” had come in most fans eyes.
The time is now ready for Osborne to stake his claim for automatic selection. Bennett, Phillips and Wilson have all been inconsistent and Osborne has not faulted so far this season. The boy from Southall is within touching distance of becoming a first team regular, and i believe after years of mediocrity and criticism, Karleigh wont let this opportunity slip through his fingers.
Karleigh won’t just step up to the challenge, he’ll jump up with both feet!