Had midfielder Michael Osborne rebuffed Preston Athletic’s approach for a second time over the summer, he would most likely have been pulling on the red and white of amateur outfit Sandys tomorrow to face LBG Strollers in the second round of the LEAFA Centenary Cup.
However, having reached his decision to enhance his football education and sign for the East Lothian club in the newly-formed Lowland League, the 28-year-old will instead grace the turf of Hampden Park, home of League Two side Queen’s Park, in the second round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
It is, of course, a far cry from the familiarities of the Castleview pitch located in the Niddrie area of the city, home to the Premier Division One champions Sandys and Osborne for the past two seasons.
However, revealing it wasn’t as straightforward a decision as some would expect, it was the persistence of Preston manager David Bingham, known as Bingo, that ultimately persuaded the former Tranent Juniors player to sign on board.
“Preston made an approach for me, as they did last year, but nothing really came of it,” Osborne explained. “David Bingham then came back in for me this year and I thought ‘I’m not getting any younger’, so I thought I’d give it a chance. I suppose it showed they were really keen to get me and it just seemed the right place to go.
“It was difficult leaving Sandys, but I thought it was time to give it a bash. We got to two East of Scotland Cup finals within the past two years and won the league title twice, but I think we’d gone as far as we could have with the team we had.”
Despite being just shy of two months into the new season, Osborne has been an integral part of manager David Bingham’s starting XI, using his enthusiasm and awareness to inspire his team-mates both on-and-off the pitch. Nevertheless, Osborne was forthcoming on the qualities of the amateur leagues across the city, possessing a firm belief that there are many more capable of making the step-up just as he has shown.
He said: “To be honest with you, I don’t think there is much of a difference. There are a lot of underrated amateur players and teams who could certainly hold their own in the Lowland League – I have no doubt about that. It’s maybe just the fitness and the organisational side of things that are the main differences, but there’s not a lot.
“I suppose it’s also a lot more professional and I spoke to a few of my mates who played under Davie (Bingham) at Tynecastle before I signed for Preston and they were telling me his training and professionalism is second to none, and I couldn’t speak highly enough of him so far.”
Osborne speaks with little trepidation as he prepares for the biggest game of his football career, a real attribute in its own right. If Preston are to defy the odds tomorrow in Glasgow and progress to the third round of the cup, they will certainly need 11 Michael Osborne’s running at full capacity.
“This was the reason I signed for Preston,” Osborne added. “Somebody told me to and I am not sure who did, but these things happen for a reason. I’m really looking forward to the occasion and don’t feel nervous at all because I think we’ve got a fantastic chance of beating them.
“You’ve got to be up for the game and not let nerves get the better of you as we want to be in the third round. I’d like to say thank you to my former coach Jackie Myles and my dad, both who have both passed away, for getting me to where I am today.”