Legends of Club Football: Peter Osgood
If there is one regret I have of being a Chelsea fan of the 2000′s, then it will most definitely be that I could never see Peter Osgood play. I have heard so much about him and all I’m left with is old archives, newspaper clippings and rare videos of him sticking his head into any dangerous play and coming out victorious with a goal as the Chelsea faithful sang his name.
Peter Leslie Osgood has 4 England caps despite scoring 150 goals in 380 games for Chelsea. Born on 20th February 1947, he made his debut at the age of 17 for Chelsea, where he scored a brace against Workington AFC as Chelsea won 2-0 and strolled through in the League Cup. He had previously scored 30 times in 20 games and everyone in the blue part of London expected him to rise above expectations as he broke through to the first team.
After the end of over 2 successful years, Osgood broke his leg, which kept him out for almost a year but when he did eventually come back, he was better than he ever was. It was almost like he was rejuvenated as every part of his play became better. The best part of Osgood was that he could score from anywhere and with any part of his body. Long range, close range, headers, penalties and free kicks; he had done it all.
He was soon nicknamed the “Wizard of Os” by the Chelsea fans for tremendous performances in the Chelsea blue as the teenager inspired Chelsea to emotional and historical victories. He was part of the Chelsea squad that won the European Cup Winner’s cup against Real Madrid. He scored Chelsea’s lone goal as the teams played out a draw and in the replay, he opened the game as Chelsea lifted the cup with a 2-1 win.
After a row with the Dave Sexton, the manager at the time, he was placed on the transfer list along with a few other players. Fans revolted against the club officials as Osgood moved to Southampton for a club record £275,000. Chelsea then found themselves in a deep pit as they went through torrid times after losing key players. Chelsea suffered relegation after losing their star players as the club battled the poor financial condition. Moreover, this was the time that the Chelsea headhunters became famous throughout Europe as one of the most feared hooligan firms to ever be established.
Peter Osgood, after being loaned to Norwich from Southampton, went to the United States of America as he played for Philadelphia Fury. He won an FA Cup with Southampton. His return to Chelsea was not very memorable , as despite scoring on his return debut, Chelsea lost by 7 goals to 2 from a very skillful Middlesbrough side. He retired at the end of the season and scored only twice.
Chelsea were a good team back then, with the likes of Peter Osgood, Peter Bonetti, Ron “Chopper” Harris, Bobby Tambling and Peter Houseman to name a few. They were formidable against the sides that are feared today, but the slump of Chelsea among the rising fear of hooliganism tarnished the club’s image and along with that, the man who the fans called Mr.Chelsea. It was not until Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli took over the club that Chelsea were once again on the rise.
What made him so special was that he did things when people least expected it. The most memorable incident which will be forever etched in Chelsea’s history is his goal in the 1970 Cup final against Leeds. Charlie Cooke caught the eyes of Peter Osgood who made a run in between the defenders. He then produced a sublime chip , that was met with a glancing and beautiful header which leveled the game for Chelsea. A goal which cannot be described in words was what David Sexton said after the match.
It was always difficult to replace a player of his caliber and though Chelsea did find someone else, none of them could ever be compared to Peter Osgood. He loved the fans and the club more than anything else. Chelsea was all the mattered to him and in the words of an emotional Chelsea fan at his funeral ” He wasn’t just a great player, he wasn’t just god, he was Chelsea.”
Peter Osgood defined the way Chelsea played in the early 1960′s – quick passes, a sudden long ball and the game was over if Peter Osgood was at the end. You would expect a player to chest it, turn and then have a go at goal, but Osgood never did that. He dived to connect the ball with a header as it was said that he strived to make the game more beautiful with each step of his holy boots.
He can never be replaced. Chelsea fans of today will barely remember him and even have the audacity to call some of the players of today as more “legendary” than him. The word legend has become saturated and slowly lost its meaning. Peter Osgood was, is and will forever be the “King of Stamford Bridge” while Didier Drogba will have to settle for the title of “Prince of Stamford Bridge”.
A question will still be looming our minds. Why was he so special? He defined Chelsea and everything about the club. Even after his retirement, he could frequently be spotted in the Chelsea stands and was occasionally found hugging them or signing autographs.
No matter how much success Chelsea will have on the field, no matter how many players we will snap up in the transfer window, no one could even be compared to the hair on the left side of his head, which has scored a quarter of his goals.
He suffered a heart-attack and died in March 2006, when I was just 8. I did not break down and get emotional, but I knew Chelsea had lost a great player. I still have that vintage kit, with the CFC logo on the left and Osgood’s name on it and even if my head has become bigger than that jersey, I will be passing it on to my son.
For Chelsea fans of today, players will come and go but a player like Peter Osgood, comes once in a millennium.