Peter Osgood

Osgood is good came the cry. The Chelsea Shed End would pay homage to their king on Saturday. Ossie played professional football from 1964-1979. He was at Chelsea, Southampton and briefly back at Chelsea. He had a miserly couple of England caps for a man of his talent. He was a number 9, which meant centre forward. He had great control, skilful with both feet, pace, invention, could hold the ball up and he was great in the air. He scored goals and he made goals. He was Chelsea football club, and to some of us he still is.

Ossie was born a country boy on the edge of Windsor in 1947. He played football in his street with the Kenton Lane Boys, and on holiday he would play the traditional 20 aside for 3 hours which was what we did then. He realised he must be good because he kept knocking in the goals. He left school at 15 and worked in a factory, but felt a fraud coming home to his dad who was a bricklayer. He did real work. He was playing locally at the weekend and still with the Kenton Lane Boys, when he was trialled for Chelsea. He was not expecting anything, having been rejected by Reading, but was signed up. It was 1962 and the Beatles were just about to arrive.

Chelsea had only once won silverware, the League in 1955 with the lowest ever points total. In the previous season the brilliant Jimmy Greaves was sold to Milan. Greavsie was 21 and in the previous 4 seasons had scored about 124 goals in 157 games. Tough act to follow. The next season Tommy Docherty took over as manager, he was an energetic young Scotsman and although Chelsea had just been relegated he took them straight back up. Ossie joined the staff full time in 64-65 season. He made his debut in the League Cup fifth round against Workington. He scored twice.

The Doc knew he was good and in the next season he gave him a regular spot to increase his confidence. He replaced Barry Bridges who was an international and the crowd were not pleased. But they soon changed their tune, Osgood started knocking in the goals. With so many assets up he could score them in so many different ways. Headers, tap-ins, and long shots he could do it all. He was so well regarded that he was in Alf Ramsey’s original 40 for the World Cup to be held in England. He never made it. But Chelsea were Cup semi-finalists three years running and finishing near the top of the league.

The next season there was a tie at Blackpool. Ossie broke his leg in a crunching 50/50 tackle with Emlyn Hughes. The bone was sticking out of the sock and Emlyn just walked away. At the hospital the management insisted on a proper operation. Setting the leg could have meant the end of his career. It was saved and he took the train down the next day in a cast. The rest of the season was frustrating as he was injured, training on his own, drinking on his own. His recovery took all season.

1967-68 started badly for the club and the Doc was sacked. Dave Sexton came in. the team was failing. Terry Venables and George Graham had moved on, later to become successful managers, but there were younger players. Charlie Cooke, Eddie McCreadie, John Hollins, Ron Harris and Tommy Baldwin. Dave started coaching by working on the defence. Things started improving immediately and then he moved onto midfield. The nucleus of the famous Chelsea side had been formed. Sexton had an eye for players, he bought Ian Hutchinson for £5,000 from Cambridge. He was awkward with little skill, but Sexton trained him into a tough and determined forward. He would be most famous for a throw-in that could reach the penalty spot from the halfway line. But he linked up with Ossie on and off the field and they got it off. Scoring and making goals for each other.

The biggest team of the time was dirty Leeds United. They were called dirty because the whole team used to use violence. They intimidated people on and off the pitch. To be fair they were successful and had a team full of Internationals, but the two teams hated each other both personally and for the ethos of the teams. When it came to kicking people, Chelsea had Ron “Chopper” Harris. He was the best and the law was changed allegedly because of his methods. In those days it was a tough game and some players were used to threaten, scare and injure others to gain advantage. It was part of the game, but the extent to which it happened varied between clubs and countries.

One of the things dirty Leeds hated about Chelsea was the lifestyle of the players. They were right next to the world famous Kings Road. They would wander down the street shopping, eating and drinking. It was their manor and it was the centre of fashion in fashionable sixties London. The drinking was prolific, many of them were experts. There was also a lot of pulling birds. The permissive society of the sixties had led to a promiscuous culture and some of the Chelsea lads were heavily involved. There were many famous people who would drop in to Stamford Bridge. Dickie Attenborough and Michael Caine were fans. Steve McQueen came into the dressing room, and there was a publicity stunt that Ossie was asked to be involved in. It was with the most gorgeous Hollywood starlet of the age, Raquel Welsh. Ossie said yes, well you would, wouldn’t you!

But the 1969-70 season was when it all kicked off. The team was beginning to tick, the players knew each other and were trained well. They were a close knit group on and off the pitch. Ossie was moved back into midfield for a spell and was successful, but he was back up front later in the season for a cup run. He scored in every round and that took them to Wembley to a final with dirty Leeds. It was the sort of match that should be recorded by a military historian, it is the stuff of legend and the clubs finest hour.

The Cup was much more important in those days, probably the most important game in the year. It was also on TV which showed no league games live, but the horse of the Year show had used the pitch and it was barely playable. Eddie Gray tortured Chelsea, but could not score. Charlton put them ahead and Houseman equalised through a keeper error. The enemy were ahead at the end, but Hutchinson bravely equalised again and it was extra time. The lads were knackered on a heavy pitch. But Sexton stood up and inspired his troops encouraging them they had them on the ropes. The resulting replay was at Old Trafford midweek.

Dirty Leeds scored shortly after they kicked keeper Peter Bonetti (one of the best ever), and the boys were up against it. The second half became more and more violent as dirty Leeds sought to impose themselves by force. But Chelsea would not stand for it. Ossie had learnt how to handle himself after his leg break was not averse to getting his revenge in first on an opposition number 5. He tackled “big” Jack Charlton from behind at about three foot above the deck. Jack was not amused, but he could not catch up with him. The farsighted Referee let it go and there was much heavily tacking and on and off the ball kicking. It had become a war, and many years later a Premier League reffed the game on video, and sent everybody off except the keepers.

The slugfest was lit up a brilliant bit of Chelsea skill. Hollins, Osgood, Hutchinson and Cooke interchanged passes dragging dirty Leeds apart. Charlie chipped the ball and Ossie dived from around the penalty spot to head in the third equaliser. Pure magic! Ossie said later that their heads began to drop. The majority of the crowd were Chelsea and they were singing “Chelsea, Chelsea” on and on. Into extra time and the winner came. Hutchinson with his trademark long throw bombarded the box and the ball glancing off Charlton’s head was bundled in at the far post by Dave Webb. He had been tormented in the first game by Gray and there he was winning the Cup.

For a game of such bitter rivalry, it was right that they should fight like soldiers. All praise to the Referee, these were fighters and this was not a game for pussies. It was also a triumph of one ethos over another. Chelsea tried to play with style, but on this occasion they were prepared to meet violence with violence. I get the resentment Leeds fans still have, but the fouls were from both sides and there were no dodgy decisions, you just got beat, even at your own game. But let the rivalry continue, football does not bring the world together, we need to express our aggression and it is better on the pitch, with our gladiators, than in public.

Ossie was playing his best ever football and was on the plane to Mexico for the World Cup. He had played one warm up against Belgium and against Rumania and Czechoslovakia in the finals. Many people said he was the best forward there, he was expected to play against Brazil and not picked. The same thing happened against West Germany when they went out. But Alf Ramsey could be mysterious and was very conservative. Ossie did not get another chance for 3 ½ years. The strange thing was that were many gifted players around England at the time, and they rarely if ever got a chance with England. Like Ossie they instinctive, creative and rebellious with a lifestyle and dress sense to match. But the hierarchy would not play them. The generation that hailed from a golden era of English football, from 1966 onwards, was neglected and English football sank into obscurity and terrace violence.

The next year saw European adventures and they went on to Athens to win the Cup Winners Cup against the legendary Real Madrid. A very late equaliser for the Madridillenos meant another replay, but they had done it, even with hangovers. The Athenians were such good hosts even letting some Chelsea fans stay on for free, some of them are still there!

Chelsea were moving on and were less successful the next season. Alan Hudson had established himself at Chelsea and was a must for England. He was a local lad and linked up with Ossie on the pitch and off it. But the Club was having financial difficulties building the new East Stand. Money was tight and Sexton was under pressure. He never had a great relationship with Ossie or Huddie, he did not respect their lifestyle, especially if he thought it might affect their play. After a training ground bust up, they were both on their way. Hudson was brilliant in Stoke and Ossie moved to Southampton and second division football. But Lawrie McMenemy, was the new manager and he was assembling a side to challenge for honours. He was a great motivator and brought in all sorts from around the leagues to build a team worth playing for.

Ossie got stuck in and made friends in a totally different environment, but a visit to the Cup Final in1976 meant another Cup Winners Medal. He had beaten his old boss the Doc who had taken on the job of rebuilding Man Utd. But he was getting on and strikers don’t last as long as others. He left and was briefly taken on at the Bridge by his old mate Eddie McCreadie, but it did not last. He ended up buying a pub in Windsor with his old mate Hutchinson, but they were not businessmen and he had to start again, He managed the Portsmouth Reserves, was an after dinner speaker and worked in hospitality at the Bridge. Even then, 35 years after he had left, the crackle around the ground when he wandered on the pitch could send shivers down your spine.

His team would remain forever. They fought together, fought each other, drank together and would end up going on to various forms of employment after football. They all had to work hard and few were successful and rich, but so what, why should you earn millions for kicking a ball? He was Chelsea, he is Chelsea, his spirit and influence must never die. On his last appearance in front of the Shed, he smiled up at his subjects wanting to hug them all. He was the King, he was one of them and he will always be in their hearts;

Osgood, Osgood, Osgood, Osgood.

Born is the King of Stamford Bridge.

Conway-Laird (2017)

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