Martin O’Neill said he “would not have” sold Ben Osborn even if he had more time to weigh up his options in January. The Nottingham Forest manager was faced with a late bid from Stoke City for the 24-year-old but said Osborn is too “important” and has a lot to offer the Reds.
Stoke reportedly made a £3m bid for the midfielder, but Forest weren’t interested and rebuffed their efforts. There was talk of a swap deal for Stoke winger James McClean that could see Osborn moving in the opposite direction, but no deal materialised.
O’Neill spoke about Stoke’s bid for Osborne on deadline day, telling Nottinghamshire Live: “This came very late on. I was enjoying the victory over Wigan and, personally, I did not know anything about this until around 48 hours ago.
“I just think it was all too short notice, for a start. But then, even if we had been given longer notice, I would not have wanted him to have gone. He gives us energy, he can slot in at left back – I know he has slotted into a number of positions at the club.
“He is important for us. It is important for him to stay here and that is what I wanted him to do. Even if we had more notice about the situation, my answer would still have been the same, at this stage of the season.”
And while Osborn has made 24 Championship appearances this season, the former England u20 international has an uncertain future at the City Ground due to losing his place in midfield. He’s been used in a makeshift left-back role and may be required to stay in defence due to an injury crisis.
Osborn is likely to start at left-back when Forest travel to St Andrews to face Birmingham City, as Jack Robinson may be needed at centre-back and Danny Fox was surprisingly sold to Wigan Athletic.