THE LANKY LEGEND THAT WAS ~ ‘OSGOOD’
FOOTIE LEGEND No.4 ( The Beautiful Game … BLOG )
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It was in 1971 at a time of personal change. I had just left my job in Leicester Square and was enjoying a month of liberty away from the ‘day-to-day’ of a work situation that I had known since leaving school at 15 years of age. The culture of the day was strongly hippy in nature, especially for someone of my years and on a trip to High Street Kensington to a Clothes Boutique Emporium I stopped off at their local W.H.Smith’s to purchase a copy of ‘Lord Of The Rings’ by Tolkien which was enjoying a cult status among teenage and hippie people at that time. I was recommended to it by a friend and after acquiring my copy I began to read the story avidly. I found the book freeing, it was part of my own personal ‘On the Road’ experience as I sought to ‘drop out’ and ‘tune in’ during my late teens and early twenties.
It was during this monthly vacation between jobs, that I determined to travel with fellow Chelsea fans to an away League Cup game at Carrow Road, Norwich. None of my usual friends were free that day and so I decided to go it alone with just my trusty new pal, my ‘Lord Of The Rings’ three-volume tome and a new philosophy on life. I sat reading of my mythical friends – Frodo, Tom Bombadil and Gandalf as Blues fans all around me in the tightly packed rail carraige were making the usual banter and customary ‘away-fan’ noises on the Football Special that sped us the 100+ miles between Norwich and Kings Cross.
♪ ♩ ♫ … One man ment to mow, went to mow a meadow … ♪ ♬
♫ ♩… One man and his dog Spot went to mow a meadow … ♫♩♩♬
The November night air was cold and icy as we loyal sheddites stood huddled together, at the open end of the ground behind one goal and a fine and freezing drizzle began to fall, reminding me I really should have worn more than a simple, round neck sweater and my black denim wasted blazer. The game was fairly exciting, a real cup tie, with action at both ends but I was very, very cold and my volume of Tolkien was now feeling particularly heavy. I was wondering, was this trip so worthwhile after all or should I have stayed at home, in the warm with my book? … Then out of the dark, bleak and wintry night stepped a hero, indeed a true legend and yes that word is used far too much. …. In a single moment of magic, a face recognisable and heart-warming, a touch familiar and unique, a moment of control and class that belongs to all true, football ‘greats’ who can take hold of any game by the scruff of the neck, at any moment and in a literal flash turn a game on its head and win the match. On this particular night the name of the ‘great’ was … Peter Osgood.
Its funny but Ossie’s football career collided with quite a few important moments in my own life, from the night of his Stamford Bridge debut, 10 days before Christmas in 1964 when as a 13 year old I kicked out at a plastic Umbro, regulation weight football while playing in the street. The ball bobbled, I missed it and connected full on with the kerb, shattering my right big toe so that I would spend the next two to three hours at the Hospital instead of travelling to Stamford Bridge with my pal, to see the new wonder sensation everyone was talking about who had scored 30 goals in 20 reserve games.
The 17 year old Osgood scored a ‘brace’ in his debut in a 2-0 home win on a very wet night at Stamford Bridge in a 2nd leg League Cup tie v. Workington Town. (Hard to remember that Workington Town were ever in the League at all I know! ) … Chelsea went on to win the League Cup that year and I spent a sleepless night in agony with a metal bed tray under the covers, ( my mums idea) to keep them off my pounding and swollen pollex pedis. In a very short time I would recover and ‘Ossie’ was being touted as a real prospect not only for Chelsea but for England and that with the World Cup in England now only two years away!…
From the moment he arrived on the scene it was obvious Peter Osgood had a rare and special talent. ‘Will o’ the wisp’, tall and slender, with a waistline, slender hips and a sway most young girls would die for. Osgood really had it all ~ speed, balance, control, timing, an intelligent football brain and he was the most excellent header of the ball. Who can forget his 1970 FA Cup Final diving header versus the mighty Leeds at Old Trafford, which for me is still the finest headed goal the FA Cup Final has ever seen and yes I do speak as a Chelsea fan, but hey find me a better one ?!
… Talking of personal recollections, that wonder goal saw me fall in a ‘house of cards’ spectator collapse 40 feet down the Old Trafford terracing to the front of the bank, along with a few hundred others, but we just didn’t care!.. In the light of the Ibrox disaster which happened just one year later, Heysel in 1985 and of course Hillsborough in 1989 I suppose I should count myself lucky there was no disaster that night. As I say Ossie and me had a few special ‘moments’.
Who can forget his 1970 FA Cup Final diving header?
Peter Leslie Osgood was born in Windsor on the 20th November, 1947 into a post-war Britain getting back on its feet after the deprivation and shortages of those difficult war years and like many who entered the swinging sixties as teenagers he had to face that time with the certain insecurity that goes with any time of great change as well as the many new-found freedoms and temptations of that particular revolutionary era.
Signed as a junior by Chelsea, Peter’s precocious talent thrust him into the limelight at a time when young footballers were not protected or prepared for life as a celebrity as they are today. In the early sixties, football was beginning to gather the momentum of popularity that we all accept today but in 1964 the game and its players were not quite ready for ‘the new Rock n’Roll’ tag that it had clearly earned by the turn of the decade. Young players like Osgood consequently had to ride the roller coaster of fame and recognition, with higher earnings than most of their peers, at a time of great change and largely unaided. Added to this, ‘Ossie’ would be plying his craft in one of the recognised epi-centres of the new ‘swinging sixties’ cultural revolution – the King’s Road, Chelsea. It was a fashionable era where the flair players like Osgood, George Best, Rodney Marsh, Frank Worthington, Ian Bowles and Alan Hudson lived hard and played hard and relished the bad boy/play boy image and lifestyle their rising popularity afforded them.
… players like Osgood, Best … and Hudson lived hard and played hard …
After the success of his 1964 debut ‘Ossie’ had to wait 9 months for his next call up, in a European match versus AS Roma. He went on to complete 47 further games in that 65/66 season and score 11 goals in all competitions including some rare and special moments. At one time he went on a 60 yard run past a trail of Burnley players. Osgood’s form in his 1st season earned him a place in Alf Ramsay’s preliminary 40 for the 1966 World Cup although he didn’t make the final 22.
Season 66/67 began with the wiry striker in excellent form, netting 6 goals in Chelsea’s first 10 games. An audacious finish in the 2nd half of a 4 – 1 drubbing of the talented and rising Man City at Maine Road is available on You-tube. Rare footage that indicates just how confidently the 19 year old was playing at the time for an unbeaten Chelsea team looking every bit prospective champions. On the Wednesday night, just 4 days later, in a League Cup match at Anfield, Liverpool – tragedy struck! ~ A scything tackle by Emlyn Hughes shattered Ossie’s leg finishing his season, effectively halting Chelsea’s title challenge and reducing their chances when playing in their 1st FA Cup Final for 42 years later that season. Spurs won the final and within a year of Osgood’s broken leg, Tommy Docherty Chelsea’s young manager was sacked! How different things could have been had Ossie avoided Hughes tackle that night, but sadly this was to become an epitaph to this unique English soccer talent ~ ‘If only’.
The ‘wizard of Oz’ was to return under new manager Dave Sexton a year later. Sexton recognised like none other the talent of Osgood, encouraging him later in his career to play in a more withdrawn midfield role for a while but it was as Chelsea’s No.9, leading the line that most Chelsea fans will remember him.
Ossie had returned from the leg-break still a sensationally skilful and adept striker, still as gracious a mover, as innovative and still with an electric burst of pace. Although physically stronger he was never quite as lithe. Osgood admitted himself that he had put on at least 1/2 to a stone in weight while recovering which he was never able to shed. He went on to play another 319 games for the ‘Blues’ scoring a further 131 goals for the club. He stands today as Chelsea’s 4th all-time scorer.
Raquel Welch, the glamorous movie star, a self-confessed fan of ‘Ossie’
The zenith of his Chelsea career came in season 69/70 with a haul of 31 goals from 48 games in all competitions. Eight of those goals came in Chelsea’s 1st ever successful FA Cup run, culminating in that Old Trafford replay with Ossie’s excellent diving header, ensuring he would be written into the history books as only the eighth player ever to score in every round of the FA Cup. Today, in 2012 and 42 years on no one has equalled that record since.
The following season Osgood scored the winning goal in the replay of the European Cup Winners Cup Final in Athens as Chelsea lifted their 1st European Trophy versus the famous Real Madrid. He had also scored in the original game, a 1 – 1 draw played just days earlier. One year later at Wembley in 1972, Ossie completed a three year hat-trick of scoring in major finals versus Stoke City in the League Cup Final. Stoke however ran out surprise winners, a defeat which heralded a growing realisation that Chelsea were past their best and a team in decline.
In March 1974 Sexton finally lost patience with Ossie and a few other Chelsea stars over indiscipline and they were put on the transfer list. Osgood was sold to Southampton in March 1974 for a club record at the time of £275,000. He went on to win his 2nd FA Cup medal there with a 1 – 0 win over Manchester United. He scored a total of 36 goals for the Saints in 157 games. Later he had a brief spell with Norwich City where I had seen him score on that cold, wet night back in 1971. He also had an unsuccessful spell with the Philadelhia Fury in the US before returning to finish his career briefly at Stamford Bridge in 1978/79.
Chelsea’s admiring and bigotted faithful …
At his very, very best Peter Osgood was indeed very, very good, almost in spite of the super-cult status his lifestyle earned him among Chelsea’s admiring yet bigotted faithful. For this reason alone he is most definitely a football legend who had he played today, with the benefits of todays training, diet and improved, agent aided lifestyle there is no doubt in my mind would have become one of football’s super-greats with a list of honours and England caps as long as your arm. His only folly was that like so many of those larger than life personalities spawned by that marvelous and frustratingly liberal period between the war and Maggie Thatchers eighties, was being born at the time he was.
Some controversial years followed with Ossie and a few other Chelsea icons being banned from the ground by Ken Bates due to unnecessary criticism of the club but he was later reinstated by the Abramovich management and worked in a hosting role for the club for a few years. On 24th September 2010, Abramovich’s Chelsea finally set the record straight unveiling a statue to the great Chelsea man outside Stamford Bridge in memory of ‘the King’ who died suddenly on March 1st, 2006. I’m sure Ossie would have appreciated that but also he would have felt justice had been done.
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