From Town glory to discovering Tyrone Mings and working in India - Osman's fascinating journey
Ipswich Town great Russell Osman has quite the story to tell - from glory with the Blues to working in the Indian game. HENRY CHARD caught up with him.
Russell Osman needs no introduction to the generation of Town supporters that saw the club lift the FA Cup and UEFA Cup in 1978 and 1981.
In more recent times he is known as the man who helped unearth Tyrone Mings.
Osman made 385 appearances for the Blues from 1976-1985, picking up trophies and England caps along the way and he even appeared in a film alongside Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine – we all remember ‘Escape To Victory’.
Nowadays, he finds himself working in India on the Indian Super League... it’s been quite the journey.
Yet Osman’s career could have been so different.
A talented rugby player at youth level, captaining his country, his only source of football was playing for his local village football team outside of school.
But when that side reached the local cup final, everything was about to change as Ipswich Town came calling.
“I was playing local football in the Midlands and I played rugby at school as I went to a Grammar school,” Osman said.
“I was a schoolboy rugby international, captaining England at Under-16 level.
“My only football was playing for the local village team. The senior side got to the Derby & District Cup final and by that time I think someone had spoken to Bobby Robson’s brother Tom, who was local in the area and knew plenty of people.
“He came down and watched the game, we won the final and the next thing I knew I had a call from Ipswich to go on trial.
“The rest is history and they were very good at getting kids to go on trial and they went that extra mile to make sure we were looked after and treated well.”
Of the legendary Town boss Robson, Osman added: “Bobby always got very balanced sides together.
“It wasn’t a case of trying to find the best players in the country or even abroad. Getting a team of players who could play together was the aim.
“A defence and a ‘keeper that could play well together. They in turn worked well with the midfield who worked well with the front players.
“The left side of the pitch was as strong as the right side and we were all encouraged to have an attacking frame of mind when we had the ball, and everybody had a defensive frame of mind when we didn’t have the ball.
“It was very much a unit that he tried to create and he likened it to a jigsaw puzzle. If the pieces fitted together neatly then it should be strong.”
Following his distinguished playing career, Osman went on to try his hand in management with spells at Bristol City and Cardiff City while he had caretaker roles with Plymouth and Bristol Rovers.
He also worked under Paul Jewell in the Town Academy, before playing a big role in discovering Tyrone Mings, who became a popular figure in his short-time at Portman Road before his big money move to the Premier League.
Mings was playing for non-league Chippenham before he was picked up by Ipswich Town after Osman’s recommendation in 2012.
Osman explains how Mings made the move to East Anglia. “I got a call from one of my kids who was playing with Tyrone at Chippenham,” Osman said. “I had known his father Adie for a while as he was a scout at Chelsea at the time.
“My lad Toby told me that Tyrone was improving and thought he would be worth having a look at. I mentioned it to Mick McCarthy and I saw him play St Albans and it was tipping it down.
“He was playing against an experienced player in Barry Hayles and they were having a right battle during the game and I thought Tyrone was going to lose his rag a bit to be honest.
“But he kept his calm very well and he played well that day. I reported that back to Mick and he suggested getting him in and the rest is history. He played well in the trial game and Mick wanted to take him on straight away and that was it.”
Osman now works in the media and spends large parts of the year in India, where he is a pundit for Star Sports on the Indian Super League.
He is enjoying watching the league progress season by season since its birth in 2014, which makes the hectic schedule worthwhile.
“I have worked in the media for 20 years now,” he said. “I worked for Eurosport, starting prior to the Euro 2000 championships and I go a long way back with them and the BBC. I also started working in India through a contact I made at Eurosport about 15 years ago.
“I was working with John Helm who is the doyen of sports commentary, he crosses all fields from football to water polo and he is a terrific man.
“I worked in India a few times with him and I got approached to be involved with the Indian Super League. It meant a lot of travelling and a hectic schedule and last season they introduced two new teams to make it a 10-team strong league.
“I was more studio-based and we do the commentary from Mumbai now. It is getting better and because of the stipulation of having a certain amount of Indian players on the pitch at all times, the national team is getting better and the league is getting stronger.”
- Osman was interviewed for the Kings of Anglia magazine. Buy the current edition for the full interview – and look out for the all new edition coming out soon, featuring an interview with Town’s young gun Jack Lankester!